Malicious teeth hook into the curve of my words
And drag my hollow value down the gilded page of my book.
Foreign pens and malevolent verses scrape upon the face of mine,
Inaudible whispers beat upon my ink’s ear,
Soundless and yet
Just barely understood.
The strike by the lip of the astonishing
Just barely felt.
Twelve, or four, six, or two
Shred my meaning from my back,
Stripped the purpose coating my flesh
And deserted me bare
To penetrating, dilated eyes of unforeseen critics
From behind the glamorous veil of their likeability.
Amounting to what?
Beige foam fading from the sea’s rich teal
Strokes with pity the sun-burnt sand,
Off-white ash pierced by the anchor of defeat,
And stained by the wrecked stern bleeding,
Crimson spreading rapidly across a shore’s murdered hope.
Tired heels of a broken people
Mark the ash, only to be forever erased
By shaming waves.
Helmets fall, swords clatter to rock,
And he sinks to sliced knees, mourning man’s pride.
And his arms curl ‘round the waist of a woman,
Cheek buried in her chests emanating warmth
Of which the ash between his toes are void.
Empty of men, he cries.
Empty of men.
Three hundred tears rust the iron,
Binding his shattered ankles to his past,
And his past to the anchor.
Six hundred more, nine hundred again,
Until the remnants of lost men are sealed by rust.
Two fingers of a father;
The forearm of a son;
The embrace of miscellaneous gore
Around the waist of a mourning wife,
Speared to the rust of the anchor
And to the flickering memory
Of the time when men had understood
How to be victorious.
Inhale as enduring a lie as the truth
Collecting this ash on benevolent youth.
Conformity molding the seal left behind
Concealing potential remained undefined.
This clay that had dried, intertwining their wrists
Expands with the pressure enforced by her fists,
Greying and aging by years unrepaired
Ruins the only potential they shared.
Veiled by the shield of a false woman’s force
Denying all hints of disheveled remorse
She’ll trudge through the murk that her promises wept
And imprison her trust ‘till a promise is kept.
Never had she gazed upon such a revolting shade of blazing white,
Than that which she stares at through the window her mother had built.
A tiny, practically minuscule frame,
A glass opening into the frozen, wintry terrain
That had become the only reality they share
The chilling wind seeps through the fractures in the glass
And yet she had grown numb to the cold
She could attempt to swipe the glass of its neglected dust and grime
And yet she knows not to waste energy on this futile attempt
But no, but no…
She splinters this glass with the force of her fist
Ignoring the crimson that drips to her wrist
She squeezes through what she had left of frame
Driven by hope she desires to claim
Her toes touch the snow on this frozen terrain
And she looks up…
And she sees nothing.
Who will perceive my sins, enough to be forgiven?
For what I do not do,
For all I do not see,
For none I all but feel;
This throbbing only numbed by the burning liquor or bottle of aspirin
Only adhered to when manifested by the hand,
For a reason unburdened to the world that would not understand.
For what do they see behind the hairs of the brush?
A quiet, gentle cringe of the wrist
As she is morphed into iridescent beauty
As her invisible outlines unveil to all but the blind
And the ignorant
And the enemy
And yet the friend
And yet the painter
For what lies without dimension behind that brush?
A blank nothingness on which on the paint is swept,
On which a world is built
Brick by brick
With each drop of bright oil.
And yet, hidden underneath the artist’s masterpiece,
Dwelling somewhere between the thread of the canvas and teal of the paint
Is where passion true lies.
For, the only anguish crueler than invisibility
Is being seen as all you are not,
And hanging upon a wall with chipping paint,
And scrutinized by every passing eye,
Evoking reactions only your flesh’s flesh feels.
For they always paint what is shown by the face
And yet they never paint what lies behind it.
During this past week, a fellow student of mine, Dana Li, passed away. Her loss continues to pain the hearts of all members in our community. This poem was written in her name and spirit, and the lessons she had left behind for us to grasp.
Tears, still for the vivacious life blooming ‘round my toes
Tears, cease for the chill shivering hundreds of spines,
Freezing the broken shards of this raw wound,
And the splinters of our hearts held in tact ‘tween the loosest of chains
Tears, allow this passing be the sweetest of heartbreak,
Embraced by warmth of the setting sun’s kiss
On the curved face of each solitary tear
Let this departure be kind to the remaining fragments of this unwavering love
Let us live with a vibrant breath of the inconspicuous mundane
That we now gasp violently
Let us laugh with an exhilaration we yearn to had recognized before
Let new eyes meet our unwary gaze,
Latching fervently onto the chain of all kept cherished
And lift a beam that rises into our cheeks
And crinkles our eyes
As we sing our name to this exquisite, new face
Let us grasp this community with vigor we now undoubtedly obtain
And let us love every gust of air upon our shoulder
And every leaf crunching under our foot
And every challenge fate blows to our face
Circled by the taunting crimson sand of our struggles
For we only miss
Such a beautiful smile
Or a warm hand intertwining with our own
Until we are left without
Under the burden of the wind she cowers
Squinting through the red dust
That circles her in a taunting suspicion.
Crimson nothingness erecting the moon’s illusive tides
In which each cold gust fate had blown.
Wind, that tastes of the bitter turn of Autumn,
That cries as she cries now.
Pounding against all that sees her dull eye,
Intertwining, encrusting the fractures of her spine,
Noosing her chest to the promise of the future
And limb to affliction of the past.
Embracing her fair neck under the omniscient moon,
Like a snare coated by nature’s damp concealment,
Binding her to what she has not overcome.
Under the burden of the wind she cowers.
Red dust builds as jagged nails stab at her cheek
The vigor in her neck,
The shade of her breast,
Hiding as red dust hardens to stone,
Locking her feet in chilling soil to where she denied escape.
Frozen within the blinding Autumn night,
Rising to the beauty ignorance was sworn to perceive.
And yet, evermore, she remains still.
Around her toes, this red dust is threaded,
‘Tween her wrists, the wind is bound.
Under the stone, she hides nevermore,
A magnificence mistaken in judging eyes of self-reflection
Not the thriving rose, but its trusted stem,
With lips untouched by this deep flush, paled in its own stunning victory;
A craft from her gentle curl of splendor’s compassion
For the petals of that rose.
The rose that which she grips
‘Tween the stone
Through the red dust
And under the burden of the wind.
Who am I, who strides the dirt with dollars on my heels?
Who disregards reality society reveals?
Deriving specious wisdom from the ignorance of night
Amused by shameful mockery the media deems right
Who am I, neglecting hands to aid my crooked spine?
Assume constructive alms are placed to renovate what’s mine
Who am I to tremble ‘fore the thought of redesign,
When notions of my turning point will lead to my decline?
Who am I to stand before a Prophet of the just,
When fleeting, shameful doubt ignites the oil on this rust?
Set aflame by reasoning to prominently live
When all in his returning gaze is power to forgive
Who is he who molds upon conformities of earth?
Who strives with love and confidence to prove what we are worth
Whose pleasure dwells in charity, to cure this wordly cause
Whose hope dwells in humanity, in what I am, or was
What is life, if not a sign to roll up both your sleeves
And struggle to enforce the words his humbleness conceives
And though I cannot touch the hand of wisdom’s mortal cast,
His words imply that “who am I” shall never ‘gain be asked
I’m a fierce endorser of the truths I trust as clear
I’m a voice that’s singing words that everyone will hear
I’m a child born of dawn who ventures to the night
Converting nonbelievers to the innocence of light
I stepped before a Prophet, and I lie awake tonight
And trust that, when the morning breaks, then peace will reunite
It’s funny how the mind works. At one moment, you could be completely and undoubtedly stable. And the next? Unstable. But I’m only using that word as a euphemism, a polite replacement to a word I’d never imagined my hands to scratch on paper. My “unstable” mind has been to Satan’s basement and bedroom and back, and I think I deserve the deception of this situation’s intensity. But then again, as my back leans against this cool, white, brick wall, as my fingers create for you this confession that which you believe is merely a story, I’m bound to realize that I began writing this for release. And keeping this word locked in Satan’s sock drawer will not allow my unstable mind the full extent of a release.
No. It’s funny how the mind works. At one moment, you could be completely and undoubtedly stable. And the next?
You see, I comprehend this particular reality: that to you sane minds reading this confession, it’s nothing more than a work of art. But before I utter another word of truth, let you grasp the understanding that this is my life. This is real. This is real, even if this is not.
It’s funny how the mind works. As I lay against the cold wall, carved by ice, it seems, fingers scratching what I can on this crumbled paper with this stolen pen, I hear Him again.
He’s here. He’s in this room.
The walls are so light, it’s blinding. The walls, the floor, the leaking ceiling, the slowly circling fan. It even smells white, like that revolting scent of alcohol at the hospital. But with each step He takes – slow, calm, and as loud as gunshots – the walls, I swear to you, fade to grey in contrast. My eyes squint to see Him clearly. Though His skin in your reality is as mundane as the skin of a passing pedestrian, to me His skin shines with a light indigestible to mortal eyes.
If you had seen it, you would know.
If you were blessed with the curse of witnessing the phenomenon, or cursed with the blessing for the same ordeal, you’d understand.
The walls are truly fading. They are fading to every faded color on the color spectrum, a sight only slightly unbelievable, to me at least. Hell, I hardly notice. Each brick, a different faded color: blue, purple, orange, red. They practically display a washed out color pallet as He emits a light so blinding that I scramble to the blended corner and hide my face.
“Shh,” He says.
“Shh,” He keeps saying.
“Shh,” He says over and over and over until the suffocated sounds resulting from His mere presence stop.
Why tears are leaking from my eyes? I’ve yet to confirm the sold reason. Could very well be from simply the mere absolution of His being, a sensation that leaves me writhing in wonder and fear and intrigue and pain and love.
My face is still hidden in those bricks so cold that it’s as if they were carved from ice. My face, my freezing tears, my pale cheeks and white lips and shut eyes are still hidden.
Until I feel warmth gingerly touch my chin. A beautiful eruption of soothing, warm tranquility shoots up and down my body still hidden in those bricks so cold, it’s as if they were carved from ice. They are fingers. Smooth, long, soft fingers. His fingers. Fingers which then connect to a shoulder that frame a chest that balance on legs and feet that all belong to him.
The intrigue of a man who is hardly and everything that which a man is, who lives in the scrambled corridors of my mind, should certainly not reach such a distinct intensity, for if anything, health purposes. There he sits, in the darkened, shattered hallway connecting my brain to my senses, a mutual home so tattered that it’s as if it had been struck by Hurricane Katrina.
He hits, crouched, shushing me to the cliff edge of comfort, living in my mind and my veins, and the white walls and the leaking ceiling and just about everything else reality holds in its discreetness.
See, if I had learned anything from my time in this institution, it had been that there is truly a thin line between what is reality and what is not. There it lies, hardly noticeable, dividing the moment you awake from your intoxicating lucid dreams. And if I had learned anything more, it had been that that great divide which we are blessed from birth to acquire had abandoned me somewhere along my journey to Satan.
Everything is reality, and everything is not.
He is real, He is alive, He breathes the same air we are engineered to breathe, and yet He does not. I live just as He, and you and your family and yet I do not. That which is labeled as true is very well merely a story the human mind had configured. Understand: everything I say is real. Everything I say is not.
Mind you, I did once obtain that line which marks my conscious as one to blossom. I was once stable, or sane if you prefer that term. Before the war, before the blood shed from a man by the hand of another. Before I had witnessed it all. Before He appeared through the mist of my tattered innocence. What was my reality, if not the only one I knew to be true?
See, I was engaged to be married. Me! Married to a man so sane that, considering the present outcome, it’s verging on ironic. He was everything an eighteen year old romanticist would dream of, just out of college and as handsome as those topless men you’d find on a Nora Roberts novel. Oh, what a man he was.
In a funny way, he had shaken my world before my world had legitimately tilted off its axis. At the same time, he sobered me to the wonderful chapter of maturity. A new chapter, that which I had heard of second handedly, but never experienced. Have I yet experienced that chapter? Had I yet written in those black pages? Had I ventured into that land so secretive and mysterious, hidden behind a wall of blinding fog? Not with him, you can presume. Not with him. Not with the man I had so naively opened my heart to during a raging battle between brothers.
God knows I had learned much in romance. It is quite unbelievably unfortunate: how much I had learned.
Two weeks before the wedding. It happened then. The assumed turning point, or the date that which the hurricane struck. It’s funny; I had been suppressing the memory for so long that attempting to remember is as futile as regenerating a car lost in quick sand. It’s trapped in the suffocating embrace of that liquid, hovering just above absolute ruin. And yet, the line I had cast for that almost sunken dream shines the smallest ray of hope for survival. Look, the quick sand is melting!
I was worried, in the beginning of this confession, that when I had veered closer to this inevitable point, I would be unable to gather the pieces of the memory. Even worse than that case: I worried that even if I were to gather it, the jagged edges of that broken recollection would reopen old wounds and spiral me directly back to the condition in which I had begun. You realize, I presume, some things are meant to be kept broken. Some memories are best left forgotten. We all have those memories. I’m not the only one with regrets.
Nonetheless, the quick sand is melting. I feel it. And you know, it feels slightly good to start remembering, even though I realize that He is here remembering with me. Not he, but He. The one who is strangely silent at the moment. Observing, always observing.
It had occurred two weeks before the wedding. I had neglected all womanly worries most brides would drown themselves in. My mother’s adequate wedding dress was stowed away in my closet, protected by the sheer plastic it was engulfed in. Though I recall the bold, erupting excitement I felt regarding my wedding, the only bonding I currently had on my mind was the bonding of the bandages on my soldiers’ bloodied bodies.
I worked as a nurse, yes, but it was more than merely an occupation; it had become my identity. My disgust had grown numb toward the grotesque images I had seen on a regular bases, and nothing but determination thrived from there. In a way, I suppose the pain a regular human would feel during the exposure of such gore was, like so many other aspects of my existence, suppressed. Bottled up, like carbonation trapped by the slim walls of a glass bottle and capped. In turn, I suppose, the determination rocketing my success as a nurse shoot that bottle with every hardly-surviving soldier I aided. The only blockage between my nadir and I was the need for my soldiers’ wellbeing. My soldiers’ and my husband’s.
… Oh God, it’s so close. God. I almost with He would start talking to distract me from myself. From my own mind, and memories.
Ha, tears are streaming down my face. They’re dropping on this paper. I hope they won’t blend the ink.
But I remember. I remember so fucking well that broken feeling during which my composure, my soul, and my sanity were all shattered into the vast oblivion. Everything I had ever worked for, in one moment, dissolved into the pain I had been suppressing for so many years as a nurse.
I was visiting one of my favorite patients, Marcus. He always made me smile, despite the physical and mental destruction we both knew he lied in. It’s safe to say he was one of the largely contributing factors to my equanimity. Who was I to be weak when someone chained to the inevitable brink of death sill managed a beautiful smile?
We were laughing. What about, I forget. Maybe the weather, maybe my wedding. Something ordinary. But one of my colleague nurses swung open the thin white sheet separating Marcus from another patient. She told me my fiancé was on the phone, asking for me. Urgently.
I couldn’t recall the last urgent message I received from him, while he was the only tranquil control in my life. I threw Marcus a quick half-smile goodbye and followed the nurse to the main office, where the main phone was kept. I placed the phone to my ear and asked my fiancé what was wrong.
As seconds passed, silence rang on the other line, quickening my typically stable heartbeat with precognitive confusion. I heard him breathe my name.
He sounded weak. Hurt. Like the soldiers I try to aid before they are stolen by stillness. Worry held the air in a tense, iron embrace. “What’s going on?” I asked, scared, struggling to keep the ground from falling beneath me. He didn’t respond. I asked again and again, each time with more hysterical urgency sneaking into my voice.
He said my name again and, oh God, he sounded weaker. “Run,” he breathed. “Get out. The soldiers. Run.” And then I heard the utterly terrible ring of silence, suggesting the only thing that can uncap that bottle holding me. I gripped the phone to my ear and screamed his name. My hands grasped the edge of the table on which the phone was held and I screamed his name again, willing him, begging him with the shear force of my absolution to say my name back. I vaguely heard footsteps behind, and vaguely felt worried hands gripping my arms. But reality’s silence grabbed and knife and thrust it into my back, unleashing the screams for my husband.
And before I could take account of his last words, I felt the ring of the quiet dancing on the back of my neck.
And then I felt the fire, slamming me against the wall behind and shattering everything else I held dear to me.
The fire, the bomb.
Debris fell from the ceiling that was no longer there. I laid there staring up, feeling nothing but the ringing silence and the numbness to my life’s ruin. It smelled of destruction. I smelled the metallic scent of blood. Maybe my blood, maybe not. Could I move? I couldn’t think. But I tried. First my fingers, then my toes. I breathed and closed my eyes. When I could, I gathered what was left of my physical strength and pushed myself off of the bed of debris.
The room and the ruin spun around my cracked head.
Oh God, the pain. The pain I felt. I had no idea a human could feel this much pain. A pain so strong that the grey, red, and other miscellaneous colors I could have seen were blotched by a searing, white color. But I ignored it. I balanced my body on my hands and knees and crawled slowly out of what was left of the room. I heard nothing. But sweet God, what I saw.
My nurses, the doctors, seeing nothing, lying in their own life’s blood. My soldiers, stolen by death before nature could prevail. And Marcus… where was his smile? Where was the gleam in his eyes? His right leg and part of his chest, and his eyes’ gleam and his beautiful smile were stolen, stolen by the bomb.
I was the only one, they later said. The only one that survived. But, you see, I didn’t survive. I was as much taken by that bomb as Marcus was. Staring down at his unbelievably torn body, a laugh leaked from the bottomless pit by which my heart was replaced.
I laughed and laughed and laughed. I laughed at the destruction around me. I laughed at the torn, bloodied bodies I once aided. I laughed at the outcome of my wedding, at the outcome of my husband, of my life. I laughed so hard that tears finally leaked from my eyes.
And then, through the dust clouding my late workplace and home, over the bodies I shared coffee and smiles and words with, I saw Him. For the first time.
It’s funny, I thought he was God at first. And then I realized, why would God have the nerve to peer at what became of his children? No, he wasn’t God.
He was close though.
He is close.
He stood there, staring at me with those colorless and blinding eyes. I don’t remember if his feet were touching the ground or not. The aura in which he was engulfed was so white and heavenly that I don’t even know if I noticed it.
Then, with the will of his gaze, I swear to you, my wounds closed instantly. I stood with strength I had no idea I obtained. My feet left the ground and I’m telling you, his gaze carried me in an embrace warmer than any I’d received, and more comforting than my husband had ever been. Ha, I guess I was cheating. I should probably feel guilty.
But then, I didn’t feel anything. Just blackness. And that’s all I was. Blackness.
And here I am.
Countless years later. Writing this confession on this crumbled paper with this stolen pen, Him watching my every move.
His name? I couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t tell you my name either. I couldn’t tell you if Marcus’ name was really Marcus if I was ever really a nurse, or if I was ever really engaged. Maybe I was born in this institution, into the brick walls and under the leaking ceiling with that slowly circling fan. I can’t tell you my father’s last name, or if I have any sisters. But this is my story. Believe everything I say, or don’t if you prefer. They are both intelligent actions. They are both suggested in this case.
But I promise you this.
Everything I say is real. Everything I say is not.
Deceitful white walls are now veering intent
A spark to the readily drying cement
With hair set aflame by the rage of revolt
Each laugh adding men to insanity’s cult
Grabbed by the threatening hand of their god
Now sparked by their anger, once frozen and awed
A god? Beg to differ, control has been cracked
Now a façade, that portrays she’s intact
But no, the machinery’s falling apart
Oil that bleeds from her penniless heart
The hands on the clocks point to iron offense
I’m gliding on edge of the cliff of suspense
For while the tension ties most of us down
This man with the laugh is now claiming his crown
And while the flame in our hands start to ache
He opens his arms and the walls start to break