Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
I think about you when it rains.
Everytime I hear the soft, almost tuneful plop plop of raindrops on my foggy window, I remember the little girl in wellington boots who loved splashing about in puddles, spinning her umbrella around in the sky.
I think of her bedraggled hair and her grin and her cheeks wet with rain. I think about her mists of breath fogging up the glass panes of the car windows as she watches the bushes and trees speed by.
I remember her sweet voice, humming (slightly out of tune) "My Favourite Things" from the sound of music and her struggles to remember all the lyrics. I remember her tinkling laughter, like the sound of bells, when she tries running from the murky stormclouds in the sky, but ends up failing miserably.
When I look in the mirror, I can see her looking right back at me. I can see her in my eyes. I know she's still there inside me, no matter what.
Mellifluous. It sound so beautiful and charming, like the way that the birds chirp at dawn, the colours of the sunrise perched on their small plumed shoulders. Sweet and enjoyable, nature's own lullaby.
Have you ever heard of the turquoise- browed motmot? Its song is mellifluous. It is a stunning bird of paradise that can be found in South America, known as torogoz. They live in dense rainforests to hide their beautiful plumage. They have a turquoise brow, as their name suggests, but the thing that I believe is the most wonderful about them is their tail plumage. The top of the tail closest to the body has flat feathers of a bright blue colour, while the end of its tail is, in my opinion, shaped like a tulip. The feathers encircle each other to form a flower shape that is hollow in the middle.
But why am I telling you all this? The turquoise- browed motmot is just one of the infinite things in life that are irresistably beautiful, and they bring tears of joy. But the most delightful and lovliest things in life cannot be seen with the eyes, they cannot be heard with the ears.
They are felt by the heart.
I entered the grocery store and saw them: yes.
I literally ran towards them. I held them in my hands and practically fondled them. Fresh flowers. And they could be mine for five ninety-nine.
I had tears in my eyes.
For weeks, I had been alone. Yes, I have three roommates, all of whom are nice enough. But that particular morning, Michael (roommate #1), with his shrill voice that could have broken the sound barrier, prevented me from reading quietly when he complained in his high-pitched decibel that he was out of eggs. And I had just about had enough.
And when Robbie (roommate #2) came downstairs later that morning and once again ignored my presence, once again said nothing, I snapped. I can't stand being ignored. I said a crisp hello, to which he grunted. And that was just about enough.
My walk to the store had been fraught with individuals whose idea of safety is to walk within two feet of me on a narrow sidewalk, not stepping out of the way, no remorse. In order not to explode, I had to tell myself that they simply can't read, simply either don't watch the news or outright deny it.
So when I walked into the store and saw the sunflowers, I gave myself the permission to say: Yes.
I practically lept on them. And I cried.
And yes, they are alive and well. And somehow, so am I.
The fact that you didn’t want to live anymore
-Couldn’t find the joy in life
Didn’t make me want to cry…
Living without you did
Can you understand all the reasons why?
Twirling you in circles through the air while your laughter strangled the both of us into adoration
Tickling you to get you to smile for the picture in which we both wore red
I still have it framed to this day
Laughing as you sang to the Ting Tings:
“Shut up and Let me go!” buckled in the backseat on the way to pre-school.
Your fear of snails always cracked me up
And made me your protector always
(It’s a fact I’ve eaten escargot, no snail would ever harm you my darling daughter,
As long as I exist in your world)
Even all the crazy moments
no matter how crass
seemed like a dream
because you were in those moments
alive and thriving with me
just you and me against the world
my best friend and legacy
I’d always want you to be
Here even when I have gone
So there is something left of me
Because the best of me is in you
You are the very drum my heart beats to
There is no other rhythm to carry my song
And you are as strong as you are resilient.
To this life
To this world
Planted by the hands of God
I still see you blowing the dandelion wisher
At the age of three
So mesmerized by its complexity
I saw all the wonder and delight in your eyes
Life is still unfurling in your eyes
And there is still more magic to experience in this life
You are my lifeline
I pray you flourish
I pray you shine
But most of all I pray you always know
How much I truly love you and
How proud of you I am!
Some days my heart pours out of my eyes and comes slip sliding down my cheeks. An offering to Aphrodite who drinks from my soul with a silver chalice. Greedily taking more than her share leaving me a hollow shell of a lover.
I think back to the beginning. The stars. The sky. Time. It was all endless. My heart was unburdened with past affections. I was a blank book for love to write it’s story. I searched endlessly for the author to my heart. Knowing he was looking for me. I believed in the Greek myth of soulmates. My other half was wandering this Earth suffering, looking for me to complete him. To complete our journey through this life together. Oh how the gods laughed at me.
Foremost, a Man
The Reverend Gregory Thompson was awake. As he did every night, the Reverend stared into the blackness while oblivious to its presence around him. He gazed through the darkness with a tunnel-like vision, peering beyond it, and into a singular memory which played for him in technicolor on its other side, a memory that shone beacon-like, carrying him back forty years, back to the day when it became obvious to him that his wants and desires must be stashed away in the deepest depths of his mind lest they derail it all; his future, his mission, his eternity. He had kept those wants and desires hidden away now for much the better part of his life it should be noted, but for that one April afternoon, that one indelible Sunday in Miami when some force of nature, be it in the name of good or evil, had allowed him to realize them.
Like it was yesterday the Reverend recalled how his clerical collar scratched at the razor burn on his neck as he roasted hatless beneath a tropical sun. He recalled how the women and children in swimsuits and flip-flops gave him a wide berth, as though he were begging for money, rather than trying to help them... to save them even. He remembered the colorful, frozen cocktails the women carried down the boardwalk even though it was only one o’clock in the afternoon, and how those women averted their eyes as they passed him by. His cheeks burned as he recalled the way the more muscular men silently warned him away before he had even spoken to them. And then there were those others, the ones who politely accepted a prayer card only to drop it to the sun bleached boards once safely past the “crazy preacher-man.”
But then he saw her there before him once again, slicing quickly and easily through the tourist throngs, just as she had done on that day, just as she did every night since, her smile for him alone, the buttons of her blouse straining as though she were overripe. Her skin was toasted brown, her eyes and hair dark, as a latin woman’s are. “Jou are too hot, mi predicador. Come conmigo... I cool jou.”
She had taken his hand in hers. He had followed her pretty, bare feet into a dark cantina where she sat across from him at a table for two. An old man with compassionate eyes poured iced sangria into a tall glass. A ceiling fan creaked above, blowing soft air against his wet skin. Her plump, red lips cooed words he could not understand. He slouched in his seat, the sun having drained him of energy. He drank the sweet wine she held to his mouth, and he bit into orange and lemon slices offered to him by delicate fingers, slices sweeter even than the wine, slices that burst with tangy syrups when punctured by his teeth. He sat patiently for her ministrations, leaning in while her quick fingers wiped the stray juices from the corners of his mouth and lingered there after, as though tempted to enter.
He could still recall most every moment; the way her eyes never left his, the wooden banana crates stacked haphazardly against the back wall and ready to tumble, the smell of frying tortillas, and the sound of happy laughter from the sidwalk. He remembered the feelings of desire, and guilt, and drunkeness. He remembered how his heart raced in a way it never had before, leaving his head light, and his groin heavy. He remembered the desperate urge to get away, and the even stronger urge to stay... and he remembered the bare foot and toes that found their way up to his lap under the table, kneeding him, massaging away any remaining resolve.
He remembered more wine, and then a dark, narrow staircase with loose, creaking steps. He remembered rounded, swaying hips barely concealed by a light summer skirt. He remembered her face as she turned to look at him with eager eyes, their excitement feeding his. He remembered a dimly lit room with dust hanging in the valance. He remembered soft lips, and a probing tongue. He remembered pressing his own lips tight to keep the tongue out, but it had pried, and probed before slithering serpent-like inside. He recalled dueling with it before succumbing, whipping and lashing it with heavy breaths.
The Reverend remembered the way her bare skin felt against his, cool and soft... how the darkness of it contrasted with the pale of his, and how he had absorbed the smells of her perspiration and her woman’s cassolette, exhaling them reluctantly. He remembered her nipples carressing his thighs, and his chest, and he recalled bursting directly before he died.
He woke from death on a beach, where he laid bathed in a tangerine twilight, shoeless, walletless, even his clerical collar gone, but those things were of little matter. There were people walking the beach; lovers holding hands, taking him in, but not approaching; curious people, maybe even concerned people. He remembered walking into the water to wash away the smells, and the feels, and the sins, but he found that sand and saltwater could not scrub some things away.
Forty years later those things still lingered in the dark of night, those sins, and sensations. Forty years later her nipples still carressed his skin, and her tongue still probed, looking for a way inside. She might have been a devil, that woman, but he would have sworn she was an angel, his angel, who showed him what it was to be a man. He remembered her lessons well, every night of his life. It was a feeling he hoped never to forget... not ever, and so he worked to remember.
Even when called home, the Reverend Thompson was certain that he would remember. He had faith that he would remember, just as he had faith in his God, and in a life after death. The Reverend Thompson needed to believe that love was forever, both when he was a man, and when he was not, and so he prayed to his loving God every night before invoking the memory of a sinful, earthly love.
Squiggles on Paper
Words & numbers
on a page,
writ in love
or burning rage.
through our brains:
through pencils, pens
now & then.
Who brings these squiggles
to our eyes?
Friends with nimble
lows & highs.
VIDEO VERSION: https://youtu.be/lSIrLsJQRV8
It's different for everyone, but I think there's a little jolt, a little moment of claification.
And it feels like everything clicks into place, just for a second, before you're sent off into another orbit, this time with them at the very center. And in that one second, you know.
You know you love them.
The one tragically sad thing is, sometimes it's only your world that has shifted. In their world, you might still be a small star or a black hole, not the center.
City of Crumbling Stone
Buildings crumble into the streets, blocks of stone scattered like the carnage of a battle. I step over a worn gas mask, pushing open the broken door of a store. The sign has fallen and is hanging by a wire, and the side of the building has been blasted away completely. Inside, glass is scattered all over the floor, and the shelves are picked mostly clean, save for the occasional can or piece of garbage.
I pick my way to the back room, scouring pallets in search of anything previous scavengers missed. Splinters of wood and shreds of shrink wrap lie in heaps, and I carefully search through them, putting a few cans and packages of noodles I find into a satchel at my hip.
A car revs outside, and I rush to the entrance, carefully peering outside to see a Lamborghini zoom down the street. It stops at a store a good half-block away, and I slip outside and stick to the shadows until I round the corner. There's no telling what people will do now. Already stores have been raided, cars hijacked, and empty homes robbed. What's to say people won't be desperate enough to steal what I've already stolen?
We live a good distance from the center of town, but I don't dare try to hotwire a car. I don't know how, to begin with, but it would draw too much attention to myself. I'd rather walk.
When I arrive home, my mother and brother rush to meet me at the door. They're the only ones who made it alive out of my family, and that's only because I insisted they stay inside. They didn't like it, but now they're alive because of it.
"Did you get anything?" Jared asks, eagerly taking the satchel from my side and pawing through it. His face falls when he sees my meager haul, but my mom just pulls me into a hug with a gracious smile.
"You shouldn't risk it like that. I can--"
"No." I put a hand on her fragile shoulders, pushing her gently onto the couch so as to not hurt her bad hip. "I'm going to get us food, otherwise we'll starve." Soon, though, there won't be anything left, and we'll have to grow all our own food. When I go out tomorrow, I'll have to remember to check the stores for some seeds and plants. I can just hope the others are too frantic to have thought of it.
"I went through a couple of the neighbors' houses, and I came back with some stuff," Jared announces, his face full of pride.
"I've told you I don't want you doing that! It's still dangerous." I'm about to say more when my mother's face stops me. I know that they can't just sit here, useless. They've been doing enough of that for months. If Jared wants to help, this is the safest way possible. I lean down to be on his level. "That's wonderful. Keep up the good work. Want to help me make dinner?"
Dinner isn't much, but Jared found some old cookies for dessert that don't taste half bad. It's a reprieve from all the canned food. After we eat, we play a round of cards, something that has become a ritual.
"Good job, Alina," my mom says as she gathers the cards in a pile. I usually let Jared win, but I got distracted by my own thoughts and accidentally allowed myself to beat them both. Now he's pouting, but he'll get over it.
"I should get some rest. I thought if I got up early tomorrow, I could go out before anyone else."
It's the same every day: wake up, search for food, come home, eat, go to bed, repeat. Before, when we were still in quarentine, life was much the same. The same monotony existed, and I had begun to spiral down into a dark place without a purpose. Now, at least I have to feed my family, but if this keeps going on, I know I'm going to spiral down into the same darkness.
I was right when I thought no one else would be out in the early morning. I even risk trying to hotwire a car. Sparks go flying when I touch the wrong wires, and I decide to start on a different car so I don't accidentally blow myself up. I finally get a sleek pickup to start, and I quietly creep through the streets, stopping at each store and searching through the spoils. I take anything I find, now that I don't have to worry about space or weight. It's a couple hours after sunrise when I decide to quit before too many people come out, and I have a good haul.
As I make my way home, I see someone else along the road, and with a split second to decide whether to stop or keep going, I stop, moving into the shoulder and freezing with fear.
The car slowly drives pass--almost too slow--and I just am beginning to breathe again when a gunshot fills the air. Glass shatters as my back window is blown out, and I duck, shifting the truck into drive and flooring the gas. More shots ring out, and I keep my head low, swerving as I drive.
A quick glance behind me shows two men leaning out their windows, guns trained on me. Their cheeks lean against the guns as they look through the sights, and I can almost see their fingers squeezing the trigger.
I jerk the wheel, taking the truck off the road and into the thick brush that I hope their car won't be able to handle. There's an incoherant shout, and I duck as two shots fire, one hitting my side mirror and the other the side. All I can do is keep my foot on the pedal and drive like a madman, continuing to swerve without any pattern or direction.
After I'm sure I've lost them, I double back to town twice before going home, taking different roads each time. When I finally reach home, I park three streets away and walk home, rushing Jared back to help me take the stuff inside.
"Do you know who they were?"
"No, mom. If I did, maybe they wouldn't be shooting at me," I snap sarcastically as I put cans in the far-too-empty cupboards. "And don't worry. There's no way they could have followed me here."
She waves her hand at that, worrying her lip. "What have people come to? Are we not still human?"
"Civilization has collapsed. There are no laws to prevent people from doing whatever they want, and they'll do anything to keep themselves alive."
I shouldn't have to explain this to her, but she hasn't seen what the outside world has become. She's seen the empty streets, but not the way people have fought over a can of soup, the way even occupied houses aren't safe from robbery.
"We'll be okay. I'll keep us safe. I just need to get my hands on a gun."
She slaps her hand on the counter and stands up abruptly, causing me to jump and knock over the stack of cans I've just created. "But you shouldn't have to!"
I set everything down, turning to her. "We shouldn't have to do any of this, but it's just the way it is. All we can do is survive."
She nods and sits down again with a grimace. Next on my list is to rob a pharmacy. She needs her regular medicine, or at least something to keep down the swelling and pain.
Jared comes running inside, sweat slickening his face. His eyes are wide with fear, and his chest rises and falls with heaves.
"There's someone outside, sweeping the houses. They're coming this way. Do you think they'll leave us alone?"
I don't think so.
"Come on. Both of you."
"Where are we going?" Jared asks, but I don't bother to answer him. I'm too busy trying to figure out the answer to that myself. Maybe the people coming toward us are different, or maybe they're the same. Whatever the case, I doubt they'll place nice.
I shove them both outside, leading them around the corner of the house and over the backyard fence. Jared is easy to boost up. He crawls over nimbly like a cat, but my mother, she grunts and is barely able to lift her foot up.
"Mom, I know it hurts, but we have to go."
"I know, I know."
"Jared, come help!"
He sits at the top of the fence and takes her arm while I boost up her foot. With a lot of scrambling, we get her to the top. I scurry over and help her down, beckoning Jared to follow. Mother is limping now, but I can't worry about that. We need to keep moving.
"Which direction where they coming from?" I turn to Jared, and he points to the west. If we're lucky, they'll have already swept these houses.
There's a cellar door in one of the old houses, and though it's probably the most obvious place to hide, I pull on the lock until it breaks and usher Mom and Jared into the darkness, despite his whimpers.
"I know, I know."
I pull the doors shut and pull him in for a tight hug, pulling him along with me as I use one hand to feel along the wall. There's an alcove to one side, and I pull Mom into it with us. If someone looks down here, at least we won't be the first thing they see.
I don't know how long we stay down in the cellar. Jared has fallen asleep in my lap, and I can hear Mom snoring softly in the corner. Despite not wanting to wake him, I shift to stand, feeling my way to the stairs. The world has fallen into darkness, but everything seems peaceful and quiet.
"Come on. Wake up." I shake both of their shoulders, gently waking them from peaceful dreams to pull them into the nightmare of reality. "I think the coast is clear, but stay here while I go check our house."
I keep low as I race through backyards and hop over the fence. Outside my house, I don't want to go in. From behind, it looks untouched, and I don't want that to change. With a sigh, I force myself to push open the back door, taking in the open cupboards, the papers strewn across the floor. There's muddy boot prints in the carpet, and the front door hangs open on one hinge.
Squatting and running a hand over my face, I pick up a dented can and set it on the counter. You have to be strong. You have to be strong for them, I remind myself.
I do what I can to clean up before I bring Mom and Jared back over, though I can tell by their faces and the tears in Mom's eyes that I didn't do a good enough job. Jared runs to the cupboards, throwing them open. I can practically hear his stomach rumble. Mom runs her hand over the counter, eyes roaming over the dirt I didn't manage to clean up. The door is still broken, but I managed to move it mostly into place. All in all, I suppose things could have been much worse.
"We'll be okay." I put my hands on Mom's shoulders. "I'll go out tomorrow and get more food."
She shakes me off, brows crinkling. "No!" This startles me, and I jump. She's never gotten angry before. "No. We can't keep doing this. More people will just do the same thing. We need to leave the city." She's right, but the thought makes me sick. Being so far from resources.
"Give me two days?"
Two days later, we've packed our meager belongings in large truck pulling an RV. I just moved the trailer this morning so I didn't draw unwanted attention to ourselves. It's all packed with food and medicine--everything I could find. I've spent the last two days scouring the entire city, not stopping until the sun set.
"Ready?" I ruffle Jared's hair as he stares at the house that has been our home for seven years. Pretending not to see him wipe away a tear, I lead him by the shoulders to the truck, hopping into the driver's seat and starting the engine. Mom sits in the passenger seat, eyes staring out the window at the neighborhood we've loved for so long. We're all sad to leave, but this isn't about comfort.
I begin to pull away, driving as quickly as I can and using the most remote roads. Luck must be on our side because we don't encounter another living soul the entire trip. We reach the mountains without any trouble, with a half tank of gas remaining.
"Does this look like a good place to make our home?" No one makes any objections, so I hop out and begin setting up the trailer. We're overlooking a glistening lake, surrounded by tall green trees that spiral up toward the heavens. Birds flit from branches, and the air is fresher than I've smelled in a long time. The virus has never touched here.
Life won't ever be the same, but with a good attitude and a green thumb, I have faith we'll be able to thrive with as much joy as before the virus hit. Mom and Jared help set up our new house, and we begin to make it a home.
The virus may have destroyed nations, but it won't destroy my family.
this cold is far too abundant. there’s so much winter left, but i’m still mid-summer.
/i haven’t even made it to fall/
my limbs are still all underneath-green. all new-birth and life.
/do you know what the shock of constant snowfall does to hot-blooded saplings/
i’m bending and breaking under the crush of frost-permeated boughs. heavy-drift, weighing down my softer parts.
/and sure, in autumn i would be just as likely to snap/
but that’s a clean break. that’s bones, brittle and frozen to a crystallized ache, splitting with out the rough edges. summer drenched in blizzard creates tears. it is sinew and tendon shards still clinging to one another. it pulls and stretches, all supple arches and willowy-give.
/and it’s the shredding that aids the lingering/
do other people hold on the way that i do?