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Courage

The Day She Said No More

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A chill

A tremor

A glance toward the floor

A slicing through the air

With words

Sharp and

Heavy—

Atmosphere gluttonous

And fat

With globules of

All the hate he had eaten

Before

Now digested and

Fueling the

Fight.

 

He vomits lies

One and then

One more

Oh—

And then one more—

And wipes it off the floor

To fashion

With his hands

The garments

He flings

Toward her,

“Put this on,”

As though she were

His mannequin.

 

She bends her knee

To his lies

And slathers

What dripped

From his mouth

Onto her face—

Masking what is true

And wearing

What he has construed,

She misconstrues

What is false

For what must be

And in his eyes

She sees

His power

Grow.

 

Shrinking hues of

Human blue

Shrivel into black—

He lowers his head

Like a dog

Unleashed and standing

Before

His prey

“Away,”

She thinks but

Does not say

Instead

She braces,

Her heart races

As she maps his face

For traces

Of who she assumed

Him to be.

 

The sound of a

Rapier and dagger

A shot fired

The kicking away of the stand

Under a noose

Two Broadswords clash

In the night

A fight

With no enemy

But brutal in its

Casualty

To the sanctity of

Two lives becoming one

Death.

 

She opens her mouth

To let the fear

Fall out—

It repels down her

Cheeks

Jumps off her chin and

Runs into the

Shadows

Where it found safety

Once

Before—

She watches it run

And dreams of being

Small

So she too could

Skitter away

Like a fearful mouse

Hiding in this home,

Or

Instead

This house.

 

Purple begins to sprawl

Across her face and

Down her arm—

Once more her

Skin

His canvas

Drying in colors

Darker than

He intended

And that—

What he intended—

Is unclear as the fog

Of war

Flies around his head

Like a flock of

Birds flapping in formation

And leaving the cold

For the

Sun.

 

He lowers his hand

A gesture

A gift

An invitation

From his guilt to

Her confusion—

She accepts as she

Has accepted

Before

And stands.

 

 

A chill

A tremor

A look to the floor—

 

“It began with a lie,”

She thinks

But does not say and

She wonders why

The dusty lenses in his frames

Project her in this way—

And why so many times

Before

She wore the vomit-sewn

Coat shaking at her feet

Like a prisoner of

War.

 

“No more,”

she thinks and then

she says—

A sentence that

Shoots

Like an arrow through

His armor of

Pride—

“You want to roar

You want me to squeak,

You want to be called Control

You want my name to be Weak.”

Then one more string of words,

“No more.”

 

A tremor

A doubt

A glimmer of

Courage

Reflected off the moon to

Light her way

To blind his eyes

From seeing her

Walk away—

Into the night

She limped

Like a rabbit

Whose foot had been

Cut off and given

To him for luck

But

She walked

And the walking

Was building her strength.

 

She was tempted to

Look back

To see her

Before

But instead her

Momentum

Drove forward—

She thought to herself

But did not say,

“No more before,

Only today.”

 

copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

(Photo Credit: This poem was inspired by German artist Conny Stark)

 

 

 

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Her Courage Slipped Into Her Feet

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She looked him in the eyes

As he rolled his tongue around

With words

And words

While he

Never said one word of it—

It was all she knew

He was not saying

And all he thought

She would not

Or could not

Understand.

 

An open mouth

Dripping down—

His lips like wax

Melting at the sound

Of his own soul’s

Around and around

Like Flint Stones

Hard and cold

And beating together

To set fire to

The campground.

 

She stared at his mouth

To see if she could spot the

Lines

Drawn from the edges

And around—

A marionette

To all he assumed

She wanted to hear

Right above his beard

Was the flapping,

The slapping

Together of the script.

 

She had this feeling he imagined

The same

The hand up her back

Becoming what he

Already

Became

And it furrowed her brow

Somehow

The reflection of himself

Sat on the shelf

Where he also kept his heart

And his mind

Nostalgic

For a cluttered time.

 

“Stop,” she said

A bead of sweat

Holding to the edge of

Her hair

Like a skydiver

Regretting the dare.

Then he asked,

“Why?”

 

She drew a picture

Of the why

On the wall of her brain

Then softened the edges

To make the image

More tame—

But just before she added

The frame—

She saw in the corner

An artist called Shame

Who laughed in delight

As she edited the truth

Like she was playing

A Parlor game.

 

Instead—

 

She opened her mouth

And fire came out—

Like a dragon

Dragging the fuel

From the center of her and

Into a pool

Of lava burning

The kindling

Of paper drawings

Torn from the sides

Of her brain

Violent like

A war game

And strong with veracity

In the flames.

 

He stepped back

And then fell

Into confusion

As in a spell and

Lowered his head

Just a bit,

“But I thought

You were fooled,

I assumed you

Needed this school,

In fact, I was sure of it.”

 

She looked him in the eyes

As his tongue fell and

Hung off to the side—

Like a dog

Running a race

No longer keeping

The pace.

She whispered,

“I knew all along

That It

Was stuck behind your teeth

But I had to wait

For your truth to

Clash with my courage

And now my courage

Is falling into

My feet.”

 

And then she walked away.

 

 

copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

 

Photo credit: Gregory Crewdson

Spoken Word: Strength Is A Journey

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As we all blow away the flame of 2015—watching the smoke of its fire march into the sky and then disappear—let us consider what it is to end a thing. And end it well.  Happy New Year to you all!

 

Strength isn’t born in a seated position—

In fact it isn’t born at all—

It does not appear

And cannot be bought but

Instead

It is wrought

When against resistance you push

And push

And push or

Pull, depending on . . .

 

Strength is a journey:

Not of flight but of steps.

One foot in front of the other

Despite the hurricane blowing in your face

Or

Even worse

The nothing that does not

Blow through the trees

Or quicken your pace—

That does not traipse along the face of water

To begin a ripple

Signaling movement or

Purpose

Or hope.

 

Strength is being alive

Because you chose to

Live.

 

Strength is carrying the load:

Sometimes of weight given to you

By others

The sadness and pain

The confusion and rain

The lies and the truth

(That hurt more than the lies)—

But sometimes strength is carrying

Lightness:

The talents you know

And the gifts that could grow

If only your courage caught up

With . . .

Well, you know.

Your strength.

 

Strength is saying goodbye

To what lies behind

Even when that which

Sits on the ground was meant to stay:

Deep inside your traveling bag

Never supposed to be lost

Or removed

Or missing

Or gone,

But when the road

You’re walking on got bumpy

Some things fell out and there

They stay.

That’s okay.

Strength is built on

“I thought I could count on,

but I could not.”

 

Strength is saying hello

Still remembering goodbye

Because goodbyes are lessons

And hello’s

Are lessons too.

Hello to the new without bringing the old

Hello to the bold I discovered

In taking a chance

And walking the road

And standing instead of sitting and

Never laying

Accept to reenergize

My heart

My soul

My mind

And time.

 

Strength is considering it all—

Not ignoring a bit—

Then setting a goal

Up ahead.

Assessing your then but

Living in now

Whistling your wishes

Walking your objectives

Fighting to climb

And to climb

And to climb

Higher and

Higher

And you might as well think it:

Higher

Get ready,

Let’s go.

 

copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

 

(Photo credit: Heiko Müller’s drawing, Across the Alps.  http://www.heikomueller.de)

 

 

Unknowable

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“Do you think we are unknowable?” she asked.

 

Caimon looked down at the dirt around his feet and noticed his shoe was untied. “Not completely, no.”

 

“Do you mean that we are partly unknowable? But partly knowable, too?”

 

He could feel his pulse in his temples as he bent down to tie his shoe, “I think we can know someone as much as they are willing to be known.”

 

She wondered about his answer as she leaned over to tighten the Velcro on the side of her own shoe, “Do you want me to know you?” She whispered the first part of the sentence but the second part leapt too loudly from her mouth.

 

“I guess I want everyone to know me.   But not really.” He could tell, right away, this wasn’t the answer she wanted to hear.

 

“Well,” she said, with securely fastened feet, “I think I understand.”

 

Caimon tried to make a joke but it fell between his feet, “Maybe you do. But not really.”

 

As his paltry attempt at humor mixed in with the dirt beneath the hem of his pants, Caimon wanted her to walk away. He didn’t like the weight of her stare and he didn’t want to feel responsible for her anymore. In a moment of desperation, Caimon turned from her—filled with the conviction that he would never look in her direction again—and he said, “Why do you always need to know? What is wrong with not knowing?”

 

His footsteps were slow and heavy as he could feel her blue eyes fastened to his back with long, thick ropes tied around his organs. Her eyes pulled at him and tried to stop his movement until, between one exhale and the next breath in, he felt her release. The moment of her imprisonment was the moment of his freedom and in his freedom he began to run. Not fast and with nowhere to go, but with the swiftness of a man whose shoes were tied and whose longest mistake grew shorter behind him.

 

Caimon ran with his secrets. The unknowable parts of himself were rattling around between his right ear and his left. They were sloshing back and forth between his rib cages and percolating up into his throat. The words he would never say, the feelings he could never explain and the courage he conjured in his dreams but left stuck to the sides of his imagination were loosening with each new footstep. He wondered whether it was dangerous to allow the movement. His secrets felt like gumballs in a gumball machine and he had only ever seen one fall at a time: what would happen if the whole lot was disturbed at once?

 

He laughed under his breath and panted fog into the cold night air, “If only I had a quarter, I could find some courage to chew on.”

 

He laughed again but this time he knew it wasn’t funny.

 

The words of the girl wrote themselves on the trees surrounding him and he could hear them on the wings of the wind that fell through the leaves. He watched his shoes as they hit the ground—left, right, left, right—and he began to count the steps. Each step was further away and, somehow, closer, too. Further from her: closer to something new.

 

It wasn’t any one aspect of the girl Caimon needed to flee but the anchor her whole had become. She needed Caimon and Caimon didn’t want to be needed. She expected things from him and he wasn’t sure he had what she was waiting to discover. He didn’t want to disappoint her, to lose her or find her, and the girl only wanted to be found. Theirs was a connection of two negative magnets, one wanting to change her charge. She wanted to change the nature of herself so she could be pulled into Caimon and he into her, almost as though the choice no longer belonged to them.

 

“Unknowable,” he read as the words wrote themselves in the reflection of a lake up ahead. Caimon stopped running and never looked back but sat on the edge of the water.

 

The air was so cold by then that his breath felt like crystals grabbing the edges of his lips as it was blown from his body. The forest was silent and still: the kind of stillness that lowers itself like a parachute over nature when the moon is moments away from switching places with the sun.

 

Caimon, tired and cold, reached into the pocket of his coat to find his book of matches. Once he was certain the matches were there, he looked near his feet for pieces of fallen wood. One by one, Caimon reached into the dirt for the wood, methodically like he was looking for pieces of a puzzle that had fallen to the floor. Once he had gathered enough wood to build a fire, he reached into his pocket and pulled out two things: the matches he knew were there and an envelope she had given him earlier, long before he tied his shoe.

 

Caimon crumpled the envelope—still filled with her letter—in his left hand and placed it on top of the wood. With a match in his right hand, Caimon struck the side of the matchbook and watched the flame immediately appear.

 

“Quickly,” Caimon thought. “It is quickly that a match is filled with fire.” Just as the flame crept dangerously close toward his fingers, Caimon leaned over and watched as the flame stretched itself from the match to the letter, like a bridge between two lovers. Or two strangers. Once the letter was lit, Caimon stood.

 

He closed his eyes and felt the heat of the letter begin to grow as it linked arms with the pieces of wood he had gathered from the forest floor. Soon, the fire began to melt the breath that gently rolled from between Caimon’s lips. He lightly bent his fingers into fists, his fingertips touching the inside of his own palm. He felt the skin on his hands and wondered why he hadn’t noticed before how rough that skin had become.

 

He could see on the inside of his eyelids the orange and red of the fire he had built: the fire made with his rough hands and matches and her letter. He didn’t want to look at it just yet but, instead, he wanted to feel it dance before him like a lover unencumbered by self-consciousness or pride. Caimon drank in the light and let the colors of the illumination paint a masterpiece inside his mind.

 

Enraptured by the freedom of the flames and the heat of the fire against his shoes, and legs and face, Caimon leaned back his head and sighed a message that flew into the sky, “There is nothing wrong with not knowing.”

 

And without seeing the sun begin to rise, Caimon knew the day was new.

 

Jill Szoo Wilson

 

(Photo credit:  This story was inspired by German painter Heiko Müller‘s piece, The Inner Light http://www.heikomueller.de)

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