necessary whispers

observe. connect. make new.


November 2016

The Burning Fields

To burn.jpg

All the land was burned

And some of the sky

A cloud of smoke and ash

Crept into their eyes

While she sat motionless

Waiting for the cries to die—



She sent a dare into the night

Not spoken, but imagined,

Like a daydream taking flight,

Anticipation crowned her




The darkness that stirred

Before the darkness fell

Was invisible to the senses

But deeper than their wells

From which pure water

No longer flows—



No liquid drop to save this space

Where ravenous tongues

Snuffed smoldering grace—

In a race to reach the end

Of their doubts,

They reached the place

Where love ran out.



She sat in the ashes,

Unscathed but surprised

By the flame-charred lies

That ignited goodbyes

And the sighs

That would never be heard

Or disturbed from their places of rest—

If goodbyes be knives

And places be death.



Her dare came to this

Where yesterday dismissed

The vibrancy

Of all they built

Before the landscape’s tilt:



“My heart is an organ of fire,

as once it was writ,

it is no plaything,

my love.”



Then she stood to her feet,

Wiped the sweat from her brow,

Straightened her collar and

Exhaled her doubt,

As she walked away

She turned for a moment

To see the land

Charred with lament

“It could not be helped,

all the choices were taken

what was here is now gone

but new growth will come—

the future will reap

what the past has forsaken.”


copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

(Photo credit: Digital artist and photographer Beth Conklin‘s piece, To Burn.  Beth Conklin’s Website)


Like a Stranger or a Friend-


The sound of children calling out

On the sidewalk down below

In a rhythm that echoed like

A song but felt like

Shadows twisting through

Wind blown leaves:

Chaos filled the room

Like a ghost

That left its tomb.



A breeze tousled the curtains

And the ends of her hair

Brushing against the space at her neck

Where his lips used to touch

And sink all the way in

On lazy days

Like this:

When the breeze blew gently

And the children played.



But that was yesterday.



There was a lot she had to say

Before she could get to

The truth:

The truth that was always there

But hidden away

Behind expectations and hopes

And a low, buzzing sound

Like that which trickles

From electric chairs.



First she needed to pull

From the inside

The parts that were painted on

Colorful creations of

Imagination and

The way she hoped it would be

Before she knew that her hope

Was a slave to reality

Because it was chained to a lie.



She took the canvas off the wall

Of her heart and looked at it

A while

She wondered at the shades

And the shapes and

The ways in which her mind

Coalesced them into one:

From many parts

A whole.



The sum appeared like a game

Connecting dots

Not meant to touch—

And she felt a sort of rush

A blush, red and soft

Pale and hot—

Push through the back of her cheeks

And sprawl

Like a cat on its back.



And a cell phone rang

On the street below—

“Hallo!” said a man

Who spoke a language

She did not know

But his voice filled the room

Like a stranger or a friend—

Like a distraction

As the sun grew dim.



Second she needed to push

Back the time

Rewind to the moments

Before the storm

When the clouds rolled by

Instead of vomiting

Raindrops and sighs—

Before she knew what it was

To need.



She traveled there—

To the past—

And she sat before it

Like a screen on a wall

Watching the choices

Hearing the voices

She shook her head and

Noted the dread

As the film began to near the end.



Her foot reached through the screen,

She stepped into the past to look

Like a stranger

Traveling through

But all the players knew

Who she was

Why she came

And what she had to do—

And she did it.



“I love you,” he said

But she could not hear him—

The visitor from the future

Covered her ears and

Hummed a sunken, soulful tune

As He continued to speak

Like a leak dripping

From a sink

Slow and steady, constant.



He said it once more

A little louder than before

But the visitor begged

Herself not to hear

And she wrestled with the moment

And did all that she could

To capture her own attention

And lead her gently down

A different path:

Away from the spark

That lit the fire

Which burned too bright

Like a fuse

Or a noose

That strangled her

With compassion

And then passion and then

The truth.



And a garbage truck rattled through

Below and out of her view—

The rumbling of the engine,

The glass bottles crashing down

Saved her loneliness

With sound

Like a life preserver

To which she clung

And cuddled like a doll.



Third she needed to say—

Now in the present once more—

The words

That erased the first,

To bend her hello to goodbye

And the buzzing from before

Filled her soul,

Which felt better than tears,

Because anger is easier than pain.



She let him know

She let him go,

With all her plans on the floor—

The shapes and the colors

The words that he uttered

Still ringing in her ear

And a fear that

There was never enough

To bridge the space

Between her heart and his.



And the sun dipped all the way down

It fell to the ground

Like a puddle it cascaded

Through gutters and it flowed

Away from the moment

Down to the sea

Where memories and colors and chaos

Go to be free.


copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

(Photo credit: Contemporary Romanian painter Adrian GhenieAdrian Ghenie at Nicodim Gallery.  Ghenie currently lives and works in Cluj, Romania and in Berlin, Germany.)


Caroline, Part 1


(Photo credit: German artist Ruprecht von Kaufmann‘s piece, Zuschauer 2014, Oil on Linoleum on Panel, 19,6 x 30 cm.


The night sky was a pale black—reflecting incandescence and the moon—but the stars had fallen long before, leaving only a satiny texture in the sky. Or maybe she just could not see them anymore. Caroline walked with the collar of her coat embracing her neck in the back, on both sides and around to just under her bottom lip, which unconsciously quivered in the cold. It was the kind of cold that pushes people through doorways and forces them to tumble down long stairways onto subway platforms below. It was the kind of cold that twists itself into cords and whips innocent pedestrians like slaves who dream of running away. Caroline could barely feel it though, her mind hovered above her head and so her senses moved on instinct, like animals tiptoeing around and through her brain.


Caroline’s hands were clenched into fists deep inside the pockets of her new black coat. Only her thumbs were free and she moved them back and forth over the surface of her tightened fingers. Thumbs with nowhere to go so they paced like a mother waiting at the window for her child who was expected home hours ago. She could feel her fingernails—painted black—digging into the center of her palms and she thought, “I should keep my finger nails shorter.” It was an unnecessary thought, the kind we all think when we want to find something normal to focus on: anything other than what is necessary.


The pavement under her boots—black and shining with polished leather—felt harder than it had the last time she walked along this city street. She noticed cracks between slabs of concrete and also running diagonal from the corners. “A heavily trafficked path,” she thought. She felt small as she imagined the others who walked there everyday because she was just a stranger there. She was a stranger whose friends had gone long before.


Caroline had come here years ago, when the wrinkles around her lips were not as deep, when her eyes were a little bit brighter as they reflected the stars that used to shine above and inside of her. She remembered the last time she was here for a moment—the memory floated like a yellow leaf falling from an Autumn tree—and she watched it as she walked. She smiled softly and shook her head from side to side, so gently that the movement was almost imperceptible to the leaf that was looking back at her. For a moment Caroline loosened the fist in her right hand and she imagined what it was like to feel another’s skin next to hers. Soon, however, the leaf had fallen all the way down—the memory that is—and Caroline was once again alone.


Except for a man sitting against a bumpy brick wall covered in trash bags and regret. “Do you have anything to give to me? Some food or some spare change?” he asked.


Caroline kept walking, looking down at the cracks in the pavement and feeling the weight of the man’s stare. Just as she was about to pass him, the Trash Bag Man rustled inside his plastic and he said one more time, “Do you have anything to give to me?” Caroline was surprised by the man’s insistence—some kind boldness mixed with desperation, which was a mixture of emotions she also recognized inside of herself—so she answered him, “I wish I had something to give.”


“Are you saying you have nothing?” he asked.


“Nothing I can give,” she answered.


“Nothing you will give,” he challenged.


Caroline thought for a moment about her new black coat. She felt her boots gently huddling around her feet, and about the heavy wool sweater, which clung to the sides of her small waist in an almost violent gesture of not letting go. She thought about the gloves lying lifeless inside her red traveling purse.


“Okay. Yes. That is right. Nothing I will give.” She could feel anger rise from her sense of guilt and the frustration she held with her own selfishness. Instead of directing it inward she said to the Trash Bag Man, “Do you have anything you will give to me?” The moment the words marched out of her mouth, like tiny soldiers carrying sharpened spears gleaming under a flickering streetlight, she regretted them.


The man was not shocked by her challenge and he answered her—almost too quickly—as though he already knew what she was going to say, “I will give you my time.”


Caroline pushed air through her lips, like a horse that is discontent, and she watched as the cold night air turned her breath into smoke. She braced herself as she felt the tiny soldiers mount their next attack from behind her lips, “I don’t want your time. I do not want anything you would give to me.” Caroline watched her words fall into the plastic covering the man’s legs and she squinted as the spears they were carrying tore little holes in the bag. “I won,” she thought. But she said, “Good luck.”


Caroline continued to walk down the street and she tried not to hear the Trash Bag Man pulling his plastic tighter against his legs. She noted to herself, “He could have offered me his trash bags.” But it did not make her feel better.


copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

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