Friday, July 29, 2011

Derailed

Molly, Tiber and I gathered here everyday on our way home from the Ginger Root High.  Our dorm rooms would sit empty for now, the first few weeks of school, the longings for home pulled us back like stretched out elastics as soon as the bell rang. 

We wound our bikes along the narrow and bumpy dirt road leading to the train tracks. Overgrowth nearly blocked our views, green tendrils and soft branches stretched into each other and upwards into the sky.  A bit further out of the way of the path, ash, birch and eucalyptus trees stood as anchors for the masses of butterfly bushes, wild hibiscuses and thistles.   At the last turn, we could finally see that a shallow cluster of pebbles formed a ramp to the tracks, allowing our bikes to ride up to and past the metal rails.  Branches and twigs brushed our hair as we rode, tickling our skin. Mosquitoes and flies swarmed some days.  We longed for rain when everything smelled fresh, though dreaded the aftermath of more insects collecting in the puddles forming all about.

That afternoon Tiber led the way.  Molly followed in the middle and I dragged behind.  I had lots on my mind.  Molly and Tiber shared a kiss after dropping me off last night, as my home was the first on our ways.  When Molly shared her secret with me,  I froze on the spot not knowing what to say. Tiber had been asking her to "go out" for days now, and she finally said yes, sealing her answer with a kiss. Her eyes flashed, her face blushing, a smile stretched as far as the corner of her mouth would go.  I stared at her in disbelief, this quiet and shy person I knew transformed into a vixen right before my eyes. I reckoned, at that moment, that I was jealous.  I wasn't in love with Tiber, but I wanted to be in love with someone, and to have that kind of a smile on my face. The kind of smile even the armies of the First Emperor of China could not defeat or remove.

The scream pierced the drums of my ears.  It sounded like a girl but it was from Tiber. He turned to us with eyes bulging and face contorted, colorless against a dark background of dirt, rocks and greens.  Molly and I pedaled closer, then jumped off of our seats. We turned to each other.  I could see Molly's mouth wide open, but no longer dripping happiness but horror. I looked beyond her to Tiber and saw blood against the palest colored flesh.

Tiber was standing next to the rails, next to the girl laying across it.  Blood covered her green summer dress, and the grass growing next to her on the track.  It was a moment of complete stillness, a second that lasted a lifetime.  Rocks, wooden planks, bare legs, blood soaked fingers, all took on a life in telling me a story I had no way of knowing, or wanted to know.  Before I could blink, sound erupted out of the still space like someone had turned off life's mute button.  I looked up and realized people were running towards us, screaming in confused curses. Soon we were pushed aside by the crushing onslaught, some uniformed, many not.  Molly and I landed outside the thick circle of onlookers forming around the body, hugging our bicycle handlebars but not each other.


Momentarily, we were separated from Tiber, and from the smell of terror, death and defeat. We stopped stretching our necks after a while.  Instead, we walked backwards toward the other side of the road, where it was brighter, quieter and sat down.  We sat down next to each other, shivering in the late summer heat, waiting for life to come back to us, unchanged.
_________________________________________________________

  I've decided to add this section as of today. I'm hoping it'd be a regular feature.

A few thankful things:

* The boy's recovery from a painful stomach flu.
* Having something to look forward to next week.  More beach time.
* Quiet early morning hours of cool air and playing with bunny.
* Non stop chattering of the boy marking the return of a healthy spirit.
* Being where I am, who I am, who I am with, this hour, this day.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Few Thanks...

* Having had time to write, edit or daydream, with bunny purring happily in my lap, or nearby.

* Made my first visit to a very old local mission - "God's extended hand", and met some amazing people. Their stories stay with me long after my return.

* Good friends got together to celebrate poolside, with grilled chicken and sweet rice.  Heat allowed all the girls to wear skirts that bloomed into the light breeze.  Tears and laughter of joy over the past year's trials and how they helped reveal supportive hands from everywhere, strong arms that held each other up as we walked through this and that.

* A group of writing minds met finally for some discussions.  The critiques are so spot on while respectful, sparks of creativity flew.

* Family near and afar, on my mind.

* The boy makes a safe and joyous return from a week long trip away, browner and chirpier than ever. We eat sushi and watch "the Flying Deuces" together, stopping every so often to chuckle or chat about his experience of the week.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dream Catcher

The boy just got home, and he sleeps.  It is early in the morning, so the sound of my neighbor Michael sweeping his patio comes across the walkway, but not much else.  The house hums in the tune of an ancient clunker refrigerator, interspersed by occasional crunches of bunny nibbling on grass.  Later I hear the soft clicking of her teeth, a sign of utter contentment. 

Traffic, like a gushing river infused by snow, plays out in the background. I have to concentrate to hear it though. Birds tweet here and there, but mostly they fuss over other agendas.  I don't hear the soothing tides of ocean rush onto the beach and retreat with piles of sand on their toes, not from here, a bit too far and removed.  But I hear the leaves whisper, and wind chimes clink. There are no ruckus in this hour except those going on in my head, the battle against stillness, the inability to rest, mingled with whirlpools of doubts.

No matter the time of his return, he sleeps for hours or days before life can begin again.  I've outgrown my angst, pleads and tacit maneuvers to speed up the process.  It's small wonders I don't pull on my cucumber seedlings to promote their growth, seeing as how I manage life. 

When stillness reigns, as it does now, my mind races in chariots of imaginations.  Usually victory eludes me, and eventually I learn to invite peace and relish in rest.  I make a pot of coffee and retrieve the golden biscuits a friend made for me.  I take out a pen, turn to an unspoiled new page in my notebook, and begin scribbling. All is quiet and soft about me, buttery cookies melting in my mouth, sweet and tangy as life itself.


Perhaps blessings seldom live far away, but I want to look beyond the oceans that I can't hear or see, run after those elusive challenges, wander into the unknown horizon.    Weariness always brings me back, from bubbles of dreams bursting and imaginary ghosts fading, so I can finally see the fruit of contentment sitting at my doorsteps waiting. 

I know now as ever, that tomorrow I will forget and allow the call of the chase to stir me all over again.  But I linger in a moment of now, teeth clicking.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lava and Ice

PhotoBy: Rosie Hardy














Black lava erupts
white flames of rats
bent tails of deceit
foam over charcoal, caramel and ice
why frozen blue stares
are those secrets not nice

Once fairy helpers
pumpkin carriages ride
magic covered ashes
cinder secret bequeath
princess twirling in clouds
music fades at midnight
bewitched dusts settles
soon as the hour strike

Dawn dances of shadows
repaint every faces
white sighs beseech
rising sash of smoke
crimson drops of envy
guarding entrance to my door
my prince can't follow
chimney my new fellow

to dust shall I return
in wanders of sorrow
thirsty from kisses
icy blue tears
weaving strands of charcoal
fabric of wayward tales

Scattered glass slippers
remaining white hat of rat
gowns of mists
chariot of past
gentle prodding of love
surrendering hours of wait
for white horse hooves
pounding basement of my heart
surviving rains of lava
til white light reigns


* Note: This was written in response to a photo prompt challenge posted at one stop poetry.

The photo above is by the incredibly talented photographer: Rosie Hardy. Her contact info:

Twitter: @rosie_hardy
Website: http://www.rosiehardy.com/
Client Website: http://rosiehardyphotography.4ormat.com/

Initial Draft (I wrote below initial revision rather quickly, thinking in the realm of #micropoetry. Then I read dustus's entry, and realized I have a bit more room to maneuver and potentially tell a story.  So I thought about the white mice who drove Cinderella's carriage and wrote the second revision above. I kept the original here as it pertains to the first few comments posted:


Black lava erupts
white flames of rats
bent tails of deceit
foam over charcoal, caramel and ice

why frozen blue eyes
are your secrets not nice
begging for forgiveness
or pleading new shine

claws of the lenses
locked you behind frames
tossing away keys
so solidly your stories sealed

thirsty from kisses
gentle prodding of love
surviving rains of pests
until white light reigns

If you don't mind, please feel free to tell me which revision appeals more to you? I am new to this so would love some input. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Family Love

[ T ]
Rebecca said goodbye to her job in May. They had wanted to keep her as long as possible. So she stayed through three reduction in forces and several division shutdowns. When the main office finally closed too, she was asked to stay six more month to "help clean up the aftermath".  They knew as I do, that she was one of the most dependable person out there.

She said goodbye to her down payment when the new condo her bought continued to leak water from the day she inspected it to the day she finally left. A dream of living downtown, and perhaps a more carefree life, gone down the drain.

She said goodbye to us, her so called friends, who told her that "we'd be there for her", then wasn't. Life has a way of working itself out, we'd told ourselves as we watched her life spiral.  Or some such nonsense. She hugged us goodbye and we her, waving away the shadows of regrets weighing down her car and our hearts.

-------------------

[ Rebecca ]
I came up here to see family -- my family and the pea sized town where I grew up.  The oceans of green here replaced the myriad of sandy brown and steel blue down south. I love it. When I crossed the Washington state line, I wanted to hug the moss growing up redwoods, the needles quietly falling, and the flash of wings leaving trails of songs above.

My sister Stella took me in, though Dad and Sally also offered.  Stella has a four bedroom, for her and two kids from dads that never appeared, so that was a no-brainer.  People say we look like twins.  I offered to cook for her, seeing as she worked all week as an RN and, sigh, stayed in bed sleeping or crying most of the other times. 

Stella came home one day, and saw me got all my cooking going. I had let my friends talk me into starting a food blog recently, seeing how popular those photos of my cooking had become on facebook.  I had planned a fantastic menu for them that night. I got pots and pans on all the burners, dishes spread across the counter.  Fire licked one pot boiling, and sizzled the other one brown.

"What are you doing?"  Stella said with a scowl.
"Cooking"   I said, in my matter-of-fact face.
"Why do you use so many dishes?"
"I need them."

I mean I didn't know what else to say.  I kept on cooking. Just yesterday after spending all day in bed, she announced to no one in particular that she was the only one who ever cleaned up. What a lie! I thought to myself.  I stabbed at the browning pieces of stakes to make sure they stayed in the pan. No telling if this upside down house would turn the food out to take a bite of me. 

"I will wash them." I said, finally. 

She scrunched her face even more, and kept on telling me she usually just used two or three dishes.  So I kept punching holes through the potatoes instead, waiting for her to finally stop.

It didn't even occur to me to confront her.  How could I?  It'd get ugly.  She'd tear open the buckle keeping her mouth pressed and pour out the venom reserved only for her kids.  Her anger.  Her poor boys, the sweetie in kindergarten, the moody teen in high school.  Oh, no, not now when I felt so sick like I could burst into flames from this crazy itch all over me, when I didn't have a plan, a job or anywhere else to rest. 

No, not even then when I do.  She took anti-depressants, then washed it down with her beer, sometimes.  I don't know what that's like for her, but this had gone on for as long as I could remember.  I wished for the thousandth time she got it together already.

No, perhaps never will I confront her. 

-----------------
[ T ]
Rebecca called me from a payphone. She had ran out of money to keep her mobile.  When I invited her for a visit last month, she had debated that against snow tires.  I was glad to hear snow tires won, though I'd missed her.

Her voice sounded shaky, like somebody had done a job on her.  I've seen her explain things for the dozenth time until someone who should have gotten it the first time gets it, without even a tinge of frustration in her.   But whoever it was took her calm this time.  That coolness, that matter-of-fact-tone, gone.  

"She's crazy!"
"Who?"
"My sister!"
"Oh. What did she do?"

She gave me a run down, except she didn't.  She shook into the phone and I could feel the vibration of her, full of shock, disbelief and a soft wail hanging just on the edge of her voice.  But I only learned that she had moved out and not much else.  After so many exclamations, she faded and only whispered an occasional um or uh, as I deliver my "it's-okay's and I-am-sorry-to-hear-that"s.  Useless words, the only thing I could send across an off-and-on, in-and-out telephone line.   We both took a pause and let the idle buzz talk us into believing calm, prayers and hope.  Then she told me she had lupus, and her uncle Billy had cancer.  He was dying.  She'd have to take a trip to see him in Texas after all.

I couldn't tell if she needed to cry, and whether I should have helped her along.  I did what came instinctively, what every cowardly so called friend would do, I talked her out of it.  Crying that is.  Hiding behind the same faint hope of 'things will work out eventually', hiding behind the cause of comforting someone you really didn't know how to comfort, I whispered those tears dry. 

"The stress of everything is just getting to me, I think I just need to get out, T."  
"Nothing wrong with that..., and family is tough. " I concluded, reflecting those little things that I couldn't quite name but got under my skin every time.  A thought came to me then, and I had to ask her.

"Do you still love her, as a sister?"

I didn't hear anything for so long I checked to make sure she was still there.  Then her voice came up again.

"Do I love her?
No.
Do I hate her?
No.
...
Just indifference."

--------------------------------
Note: I am incredibly lucky to have a friend who cares about my writing almost as much as I do.  She shared her story with me and agreed to let me interview her for further details.  All the names had been changed to protect identities.  Otherwise events are written to the best knowledge and recollection of the protagonist and to some extent, the author.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

California Gold

California is known for healthy living and ...well, plastic surgeries.  But as we came to the gate of the annual summer fair,  along with other potential weaponry of mass destruction, we chucked our notions of natural or artificial beauty into the waste buckets.  We walked into a dusty patch of land by the ocean but smells like the barnyard looking for deep fried everything.   Bacon, brownies, funnel cakes, Oreo cookies, ice cream, you name it.  Into the thick batter they went and out of the fryers they came triple sized, grease dripping, and artery clogging facts forgotten by the eager fair goers. The threat of throwing up on rides afterward seemed to only heighten the excitement.

This wasn't the place for yoga mamas who pack on a pharmacy of vitamins, supplements or allergy medications every time they lift off from home central.  Dusts mixed with sweat, rancid perfume with jalapeno sauce took over from avocado cucumber facial cream and aroma therapy scented candles. High heels, make up or anything delicate would have looked as out of place as a lipstick wearing pig flying over the white house or capital hills.  Not that there would be anything wrong with that as we learned from election campaigns and candidate debates.

We stopped trying to look beyond the sea of people or to part it, riding the tides that pushed us forward passing islands of stalls instead.  Once we gleamed onto the promised land flowing with food and drinks we exited following the pillars of smoke and others who looked hungry. We ordered a plate of deep fried Oreo cookies each the size of my fist, cobs of corn, gallons of lemonade, and barbecued turkey legs fit for Goliath to swing as baseball bats.  We rested our tired legs and chatted about politics and the state of economy, taxes buckets and national debt ceilings, in case the record heat and the abundance of grease haven't completely clogged our minds and shorted our circuits. 
Foot long hot dogs and sides of pork


The six o'clock sun dove towards the ocean through the thick curtain of fog floating just above, soon getting all red in the face like an overinflated balloon.  Silhouettes of palm trees and the Ferris wheel reached high enough into the deepening blue sky you could feel they leaned over you for a peek at all the excitement and yelling.   Shadows formed and air cooled when we found a courtyard with less people and more music, coming from impromptu stages.  The band was on maximum volumes and it felt good, as if balancing the excess from everywhere else, while setting up contrast in excessive beauty.  The last golden ray of the sun reached the lead singer's tender face, full of dream and longing, dotted with tattoos and piercings, contorted one minute, still another, like morning dew smoothing onto the inexplicable wrinkles of a young leaf.  She stepped to the microphone, breathing life into chrome and steel. Behind her, the guitarists draped in tattered jeans, spiked hair and tattoos leaped across the stage drumming out chords that transcended differences.

People slowly poured into the courtyard and as they did they paused to listen, to lock eyes with music and to respond and connect. Besides me a dark skinned young mom held the hands of her curly haired toddler, belting out tunes of her own. Next to her a group of beefy college kids swayed with music under their backward baseball caps while giving each other imperceptible nods. Even further a subdued Asian family let it loose, clapping and moving to the rhythm.  Everywhere I saw worried faces like my own and carefree faces I once knew. I saw the skinny, the curvy, the misfit, the entitled, the beautifully scarred and the delicately strong.  Their faces shone from the evening light and perhaps also the grease in the air, their bodies sang, their voices danced, they are the real people of California.

If there could be an instant, a moment in time, when you are simultaneously hopeless and proud, happy in sorrows, empty yet filled, leaping while standing still, I found it then as I thought about beer, bathrooms, jobs, bills, loneliness, faith, joy, but most of all people.  A salty sea breeze came and waltzed with night blooming flowers hanging over the edges of balconies above the stage.  Wind rustled up leaves and carried over fits of laughter and screams from those on the rides, while everything began to take on shades of gold, amber or chocolate.  The sun dipped further into the now nearly navy blue pacific for her evening splash, taking an early but glamorous leave.

The rest of us stayed.  We moved to the music, moment by moment, tearing free from shadows and thoughts.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Coffee Stop

I sat at the sunny window of Starbucks, cradling my drink, looking out the window absently, and scribbling a note or two with only half a heart. 

Sunlight splashed onto the fountain just outside on the platform, where people gathered and then scattered, like tides of the ocean. A young boy and his little sister raced towards their dad, who leaned against the fountain pouring into his phone, his children’s voice washing over him without effect.  The chased each other some more, the girls hair flew up, like dark curly bubbles riding with wind and waves. After a while, they sat down to devour a coffee cake, snuggling close against dad. The girl’s feet dangling from the edge of the fountain, her ballet slipper, silvery and sparkly, dangling from her feet.

Soon the young family left, leaving the fountain flowing yet empty. The pristine base caught the light, remembering that lone silver slipper dangling from the girl’s toes.  Lives came and went all around it, dangling also, frail and soft, empty vessels, suspended until a spark of light hits so they too, could shine.

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