necessary whispers

observe. connect. make new.


January 2016

Spoken Word: Hope Is a Bird



(Photo credit: German painter Heiko Müller’s painting, Biofeld.


Emily Dickinson says, “Hope is the thing that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”


If hope were so constant why does it often feel so elusive?

If hope were so constant why must it be

Fragile, like a bird?

Why must it molt and

Give away its feathers to the changing of seasons,

To the pains of growth,

To the tides of purpose and




Why must Hope be so near and feel so far

Like a jar

Holding gold that sits tightly closed

While my failing muscles

Drip like gas from a leaking tank

On the ground?

A car without gas has no purpose.





Does anyone else wonder about their purpose?

Does anyone else feel like a drifter,

A tumbleweed

Blowing quickly with the direction of the wind,

Sometimes far out to the east and


In a circle,

Round and round in a dizzying dance of looking toward

But not seeing

And running and

Gasping and

Stopping and

Breathing hard

Heavy like a prisoner broken out of jail

Without a crime but only time—

How have I spent it?

Where am I going?

Why am I here?





There is a definition of hope that fails.

It flails in the wind

Blown through a flame on top of a candle and then


In the smoke.

This pointless hope is a wish.

Only a wish

Wandering while I

Wonder what to grab on to.

What to hold.

How to mold my lips into a circle meant to whisper into the smoky darkness,

“What next?”

This definition of hope is a lingering mess,

Like the pile left

After the raccoons have eaten what is left

And the opossums have rolled their wiggly bodies through the smell left behind by the

Spoils of the theft.



Hope is just a wish,

A dream,

A word some say but Emily Dickinson says,

“A word that is spoken begins to live that day”

And hope is eternal so it isn’t right,

This definition.



What does God say?



It’s unpopular,

A menace to society that stalks the hearts of men

Wherever they go,

Never knowing—these words, this God, and

That man

Cloistered in the shadows of Sunday.




Day light,

Day time,

Time to find,

Remember the anchor.

The pavement below our feet,

The dirt below the street,

The mud, the dust, the worms,

The bugs all the way to the center,

The heartbeat,

The core.

There is hope that erupts like a volcano from which we run,

We are stunned and

Stop and

Look back and see the blaze and count our days and wonder,

“What have I done?”

What am I doing to light a fire under my own purpose?




My flame is nothing without His breath.

His volcano breathes like a dragon from the depths of victory.

He was

And is

And is to come.

To go

To look to the left and to the right is a fight with no victor.

The victor is a head nod up,

A hand flying toward the sky,

A knee bent

A heart rendered useless without Him who

Lifts your head,

Who brings life to the dead.



He did not come to make bad men good

He came to make dead men live,

So live.

And live,

Like a thing that flies, that never dies

That soars like a bird

A bird that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and

Never stops

Never stops

Never stops

At all.

copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

Those Things


(Photo credit: A brush drawing by Heiko Müller, Untitled.


There is no way

To say the words

That never form

But burn

Inside my head

In colors and

In melodies inside of songs

And photographs—


Dropping down like bass

To the pit of


Playing trios in my


The blues.


Notes of Billie Holiday

Flying up from my center

Like smoke up a

Chimney’s flue

And turning my mind

Churning my time

Breaking it down and

Making me forget

Where I am in the day

Sunrise or sunset

It doesn’t matter

Because the day

Can’t be through

Until I know

How to say it

To you.


Cymbals softly tapping

The rhythm has begun

Gets trapped

In the middle of my chest

Right between my breasts

So I feel it

Hear it

But I cannot sing the tune

Because it’s stuck—

Stuck like

A bug on the window of

My lungs


And then rat-a-tat

The cymbal grows

In its presence and its



What if I simply said

With dread

Of not being understood

That I am filled with


When I see your face

Hear wind chimes blowing

In the breeze

On a hot summer day

When your cadence comes

To play

In my mind

Not even your words

Just your hows

And your whys

And your



What if I simply drew

A landscape

Bright with green

Like new

The way the world looks

When you

Choose a fork in the road

Turn a corner

Suddenly see

Vibrant artistry

In nature

And gasp

With awe

When awes gets stuck

In your throat

Like a word

Like a note

And all you can think

Is emotion.


There is no way to say

The words

So instead

I’ll venture this:

A bouquet of


The thoughts themselves

The gestures wrought

To tell you

That thing

Like a bird with

Vibrant blue wings

That thing

That makes

Music sing

Moonlight glow

Roses red

Peace and kindness spread . . .


Or maybe

I could


Look at you

And you

would know.


copyright Jill Szoo Wilson







Moonlight We


(Photo credit: Heiko Müller‘s painting, Antares.


The sun grows hours

Then burns them dry



Blow by the days

And we

The cattle drivers

Saddle the minutes

And ride them,

Guide them from atop

Their prickly backs.



The Sunlight We

Strap on our shoes

Tattered at the soles

To tread

A line

Publicly defined by

The rules of


And who the other

We’s expect us all

To be.



Astride atop

Rolling ticks and tocks

And traveling

Through noon time

Crowds of We

Is She—

An explorer whose eyes

Are lifted

Toward the sky

Inside a sea of eyes

Seeing same.



The busy pavement

Vibrates with progress

As defined

By hand held devices

That shine

In daytime rays

And ricochet


The gaze

Of the masked We

Stumbling at a gallop’s pace.



But she—

She sees.



She sees what is real

In the moment defined

Not confined by

What she should

Why she ought or


Why she would

She rides the time

And feels the warmth

Of the sun instead of

Using it for light.



Reflection of the sun can be seen everywhere.



Embracing now

A give and take

Of new and ideas

And what does it mean

She offers herself

To the questions

That rise

Dwells in the


Of wandering




And he—

He sees.



Along the trail

Sprawling on every side

Is one—

A He—

Who rides his own

Tumbleweed time

Carrying boredom

Wrapped in


Searching for what

Is relevant.



His eyes wide open

Heart behind a shield

He journeys

With a purpose

Gone cold

Like a campfire


He rubs his hands together

Above reasons

That fail

To keep him warm.



Until the moment

Just one moment


Amidst a thousand eyes



The only she

In a sea of


Whose awareness

Pierces the shield of his own.



No words exchanged—

Not yet—

But the moment is frozen still

The sun holds its place

And reveals

Details of her face

As though

The opulent

Fiery star above

Is painting

Something new.




Says she and


Says he and the sea of

We begins to roar

Once again.

He asks,

“Can you travel

This way?

If only




He smiles—

Not only his lips

But eyes brightly

Joining as

His hands begin to warm.

She accepts

His invitation,

“I will come

Your way

Let’s not delay

The sun will set into night.”



Two journeys become

One moonlight We

As the day stumbles

Behind the moon—

The moon that stops

The growth of time

Replacing stars

For minutes

And silence for sound

When all around


Into a single



copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

Monument To The Dead


(Photo credit: This story was inspired by German painter Heiko Müller’s painting, Sun In The Park.


Monuments to the dead

Are erected for


Open to the souls

Of those who

Wish to remember

Those who have

Lived and died and

Continue to live.


Stone, brick or cement

Though they be

And empty

They remain

But for the meaning

Thus imbued by


Of those who live and

Continue to live.


The moment each shrine

Is complete

A silent door is hinged


Transfer from beyond

To now

Dwells in possibility

And the honored ghost

Continues to live.


Once, three figures born

Of one mother the same

In the identical hour

Released from a

A fragile frame

Walked the earth


Until the day two

Continued to live.


Snow filled the sky

It flew and then danced


Muffled were the sounds

Of voices and steps

Covered was the ground

Invisible were

The dirt and lake to those who

Continued to live.


Three walked together

And then there were two

Four feet tread trails

Already trodden

And two feet

Fell through

Ice that was cold

But thin to the touch of those who

Continued to live.


The third of three

Kicked and thrashed

Her icey eyes looked

For the hole

The whole of her

Goal was to find the shaft

Of light defining

Entrance to the world of those who

Continue to live.


The two above and

The one below

Extended their hands

Reaching for connection

Hoping for protection

Fighting for collection

Until silence filled the

Place below the feet of those who

Continued to live.


The snow fell with fury

Painting the place

With a peaceful scene



With serenity and

Swallowing the

Evidence of she who could not

Continue to live.


The two left behind

Erected a shrine

Of flakes that dropped down

And those on the ground

With frost-bitten hands

Stiffened by tears

Fallen and petrified

From the eyes of those who

Continue to live.


Inside the creation

Devised of snow

When final touches of

Eyes and nose

Were placed in honor

Of she who was gone

A door was hinged

Between the dead and those who

Continue to live.


When two journey into the woods

To embrace the one who fell

She opens the door

Through the visage of snow

And enters the world

Once more

Invisible to most

But fully present with the two who

Continue to live.


copyright Jill Szoo Wilson





Givers and Takers


(Photo credit: German painter Heiko Müller’s piece, Snow Daze. )


“Do not ask me when I came

To this place,”

Said the woman with no face.

“I was sent here,

I had no choice but to



to glide

and still I descend.”


Tucked within the folds

Of society there are

Givers and Takers


In creases too deep

To iron straight

The fabric is

No bigger

Nor is it new

Than the day the

First snow fell

When the earth was a child,

Cooing into the




“I gave him my money,”

She said as she pressed

Her handkerchief

To her lips.

“His chest puffed out


and his fists

were in charge

of my perception

of who he was.”


They took what they wanted

These gave what they could

When the giving was


These too

Followed the way

Of no more.


“We gave him

our trust

wrapped in small hands

and hugs


meant to squeeze

the dark from his heart.”

Said she. And he,

“I wanted his insides

to fall

on the floor

and to mend the tears

that were

bleeding him dry.”


The little ones

Wrapped up their hope

Attached it to a rope

And threw it over the side

They watched

As the ocean

Of their innocence

Sucked it away

But they could not


And were dropped

Into the fray.


“He took my heart,


I offered it first

in the palm of my hand

in the center of my glove,”

Her words are

Heard through

Lips of wood

Dried up

From kissing


Who sucked the

Softness from her


“I stood in the shadows

and lifted him high

like a marionette

hanging from the sky

above his frame

until the day

he bundled his life

and tiptoed away

and I like a cat


a stray.”


Each Giver

Cascading down

With souls like


Beautiful and

Giving life

To the bodies above

And will again

To the bodies below

Upon their arrival.


The Takers

Whose hands press

Hard against the Givers’ backs

Are milling about at the top

Of the hill

Wallowing about and

Will be there still

Taking and taking and


Until . . .


“We journey with

hearts that are heavy,

it’s true,

but we do not regret

the debt we’ve accrued.

To give

is to abundantly live

and the magic of


is to be filled


with all that we have

given away.”


If you wander through

An open place and

Hear behind you

The gliding of

The Givers

Stop and

Turn around and

Bear witness

To their



copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

A Poem: The Vessel



His hand was only a hand

With veins that rose and fell

Like gently rolling waves

A dip and a swell

Giving life to all within

Beneath the water and his skin.


His brush was only a brush

With bristles short and soft

Like freshly growing grass

Subject to the windy wafts

Of springtime growing new

Filling in the lines he drew.


His eye was only an eye

With so much more behind

Like the shade of green

That bends and winds

Beneath the skin inside her wrist

Deeper still before a kiss.


His art was only art

With confines of space and wood

Like the forest she explored

In the freedom of childhood

Filled with shadows and light

An expanse of elation and fright.



copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

Photo Credit: Elspeth Diederix

Poem: Broken People



The broken people


Of themselves


To mend

Before the stories

Clinging to sinewy tendons

And blood covered veins

Break the remainder

Of the broken people.


Like bricks

Pulverized by word-hammers

And spread across


Weighted so

The paper

Will not be carried away by the wind

The anchor-stories

Are yanked from below

And are gasping and


Something new.


Their minds have slipped

Into the core

Below the place

Where gray matter


And squishes about

And their eyes

Are inside and


What is there

And blink Morse code

To the hands

On the outside—

In this way

The stories are told.


The broken people

Choose not to walk


Walking is easy

On feet that are strong

But movement against

Wind might seem like


But sometimes

Movement of the hands



Further along

Than feet ever could.


“Do you dream?”

A fellow asked

Who smelled of Vodka

And beef

Whose face

Looked like it dripped with


Too thick

And crusted on


By the touch of

His painter’s hand.


“I dream,” answered

The broken man

Whose feather pen

Moved faster than before.


“How do you dream,”

He asked then he stumbled,

“With no head to call your own?”

He laughed at his question

Like old women

Laugh at dolls

When dementia

Has taught them

That dolls are real.


The broken man

Wrote on

And thought about

A song

He heard in his ears

Long ago

Many years

Before his head fell

Into his core,

“I see the crystal visions

I keep my visions to myself

It’s only me

Who wants to wrap

Around your dreams and

[I wonder]

Have you any


You’d like to sell?”


The broken people

Tell of themselves

They also tell of you

And when they


Silvery questions

Into the ocean of


It never is in vain—

For they will not

Throw your stories




Transform them into

Something new

And then


Move through

Fingertips too.


copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

Photo credit: an awesome artist whose sculpture I photographed at Hirschhorn Museum And Sculpture Garden in Washing DC but whose name I forgot to write down.

Lyrics included in stanza 8 are from Fleetwood Mac’s song, “Dreams.”

A Poem: Woman Waking


(Photo credit: Heiko Müller, Standing Cat In A Sheepcote.


Many people will tell you—with glasses on the ends of their noses and black scarves wrapped loosely about their necks—that center stage is the strongest place for any actor to stand.


I disagree.


Once an actor has arrived at center, she has arrived.


When she stands just outside of center, she is still on a journey.


This poem, as well as the two that will follow, are about the journey: those places that surround the destination, or have not yet reached the full understanding or completion of a thing . . . those places or thoughts or moments that come close to center . . . but do not quite touch it.


Woman Waking, by Jill Szoo Wilson


She lifted her hands toward the sky—

White and heavy with snow-laden clouds—

And stretched all the way through

From the tips of her fingers

To the delicate curves of her ankles:

A sound flew and then fell from her lips.


It was a sigh of awake, a dream of asleep—

Her breath still deep but rising to the surface—

She could see the wrinkles of her pillow

Branded into her face, holding on

Until they too had to fall from her cheeks

And rise, like steam from a cup of coffee.


The birds outside her window sang—

Songs of newness, routines and plans—

And then they were muted by the clamor

Of coffee beans bursting with fragrance

And tones more lively than even the birds

Could muster through beaks that sip only water.


She sat at her table wearing pajamas—

White cotton speckled with flowers of pink—

And she touched the tip of her mug

To lips that had not yet spoken into the day

But made only the sound of awake

And she swallowed the warmth as she thought.


Her thinking became clear and her eyes became bright—

Brightened like snow when the sun begins to shine—

A plan began to spin and to whir

Like the cogs in a machine newly oiled,

The sound of movement—of forward—

And she hopped on the sound like a wave.


Into the day she rode on an idea with wings—

The feathers were big like those of an angel—

Her hair blew backward and also to the sides

Into air that felt the way water feels

When at first the faucet cascades

Before the heat of hot has time to warm.


She was not sure where she was going—

The going was more important than the where—

Beating inside her was a heart

Burning inside was a feeling

Rising inside was a hope that

Waking was only the beginning.


copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

Love And Alive

Man With Bird In Soul.jpg


Everyday he comes and goes

Like a beggar on the street

With no way to turn

But the direction from which he came—

If the streets were carpeted

Soft to the touch

The tread of his soles would

Scratch holes across the path

He has



Worn out, the man with the

Briefcase breathes heavily

Under the sun and

Under the moon

Inhaling and

Exhaling as he travels

Blind as he goes

Not because he has no head

But because he feels no pain

Or joy—

He is numb.


Numb since the day she

Walked away and

Numb when he remembers

The way

Her hips sway—

This way and that

And numb when he

Thinks of her name but cannot

Say it



Silently the bird in his soul—

The bird whose name is


Perches at the edge of her

Cage whose name is


And wishes for the day

She might once again





Flying in the air

Above the man

Is a bird whose name is


He flies up high and

Then he dips

And twirls

Like the tail of a kite giggling

In the wind

Awaiting the moment when

The Man

Opens his coat and

Sits on his bench

And sleeps—

Like a beggar on the street



Dreaming of her face—

The only face that is

Trapped inside the Man’s soul

Love watches with a keen and

Clever eye.

In one moment—

A moment whose approach is slow

Whose arrival is timed

By the gods

Whose watches are synchronized

To the beating of

Bird and human hearts—

The vigilant bird


The coat fall open


The Man sit down on his bench


Him close his eyes and

Seizes this



“Freedom does not live in the sky,”

He sings.

“Freedom lives inside Alive.”

Love drifts down

Through blue and through clouds

And alights

With bars between himself and


The one who holds his


Inside of her

Inside a cage

The one who

Knew he would



“Come to me every day,”

She wanted to say

But instead she said,

“You must not waste the time

Waiting by my side

When all the world

Sprawls before your gaze.”

Love ruffled his feathers

And looked into her eyes,

“Until you are here with


just you and me—

I will come and sit with you



Everyday Love came

Just as he said he would

And the earth turned slowly

From summer

To autumn

To winter

To spring

Their stories grew and

The details they knew

Poured through the bars

Like drops of water


From watering cans

Growing their love

Growing him and growing



Her days inside,

Her will to survive,

Alive and Love

Together traveled through

Until the day

The Man stepped anew

Off his carpet of same

Tattered and

Worn through by

His shoes—

First one and then two—

Onto a path where four

Could move

His loafers and

Her daintier

High heels of



Blue turned to joy

Joy turned to alive

And Alive for the first time


The Man let her fly

As his heart said

Goodbye to the

Pain that was keeping

Alive inside the cage

Inside his



Souls in the air

Free with


No longer bound

But soaring high

Strengthened by

The time in the cage

And by flying





copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

Photo Credit: René Magritte, The Healer.  On display at Hirshhorn Museum And Sculpture Garden, January 2016

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