The Day After the Ice Storm

Ironically, today is absolutely filled with life. Work crews are out in force, shoveling, chipping, scraping, preparing the sidewalk for the strangely erratic day. The path before me is filled wit birds, twittering in treetops, perhaps relieved that the storm is passed.

Everything is melting. I can hear it in the forest to my left, see little rivers running new life through tire tracks on the road. Though it is winter here, my mind dreams up spring out west, rivers fat and roaring with melted snow.

The tops of our own quiet mountains are frosted and dyed blue by the shadows of clouds. The day is cold but filled with apricity and I glow in it. The sun and ice turn the gravel road into a sheet of silver, the dry fields into diamonds, makes the lithe limbs of trees shine, filling the valley like a bowl with an ethereal gleam.

The river seems quieter than usual, as if falling asleep or, more accurately, just waking up. The river cane are heavy with ice and lean wearily across the path. They chime and tinkle as I brush past.

Overhead is a wondrous noise as if the treetops, twisting, are trying to break free of their shimmering casing. A lump of dried grass catches my attention. The blades are thin and gold like hair and frozen stiff after being splayed across the ground by the wind. It is filled with frozen dew drops, the sun sparking rainbows in each orb.

As I return to my room, I feel as one woken from enchantment, rising from a glass casket, opening eyes to see the world in a new way.

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I Want

My brow is filled with heavy determination. There is a darkness in my thoughts but also the desire to overcome it, to be more than my failures. I feel the sun breaking through clouds, covered again, sparking the edges, grays and gold. I feel like I’m knocking on walls and suddenly hit a hollow panel. I’m resonating, vibrating, growing still, and am hit again. I am a cycle of energy and apathy. I am a writer, observing the world, catching the flotsam and jetsam on this river of life to build something extraordinary. I am an observer. Wide eyes and open ears. But sometimes I fade in on myself, for there is a world within me, galaxies within me, helixing behind closed eyes. I want to be alone. All these minds jostle me, all these galaxies. They overwhelm me, press in on me. Never could I understand, comprehend, each and every one of them. I am overwhelmed. I want to get lost. I want a shipwreck, a deserted island. I want my foundations shaken, a lighthouse toppling into the ocean. Storming seas, hurricanes, I want them. I want solitude and peace. I want a cabin in the woods. I want to chop my own wood. I want snow shoes and red cheeks. I want to shiver, my body trembling with life. Am I manic? My mood swings like a pendulum on a clock on a ship on a stormy sea. I want to run with horses, scare them into kicking up their feet. I want to move like a snake, feel the ground on my belly, in cool caverns on hot sunny days, a subterranean stream sounding the ground beneath me. I want to howl at the moon, drink in the stars, let them burn in my throat, spark in my eyes. I want to cling to a cliff face, muscles quivering and burning and look down. I am a songbird in the throat of a wolf, a black cat in the eye of a dragon. I want to scream myself hoarse. There are places I want to escape to, worlds I want to run to. I want to dance around fires naked in the moonlight. Don’t call me a witch, call me a god. I want my feet on long roads which I don’t know the end of. I want dirt and gravel in my boots. I want to sleep in the sun and walk under the stars. I want to be somewhere nobody knows where I am. I’ll go to the shimmering red desert in spring, I want to see what grows there. I want red dust stuck in the crevices of my boots. My eyes read stars like books, written by nobody. I’ll topple cairns, I don’t want to go home. I’ll be a leather tramp, my boots kicking up dust.

Contentment

This is contentment. Sitting in the sun on a high grassy hill, back against a tree. I stare across mountains and down to the river. The only sounds are of the wind filling the beech trees with a dry chiming, winding its way through pine needles, and the River, constantly churning. I’m on the lookout for signs of spring. The sun is bright in the sky, the air is warm. The grass is green in places and the birds and insects are out in more energy.

But the trees, the most sure indicator, remain barren. There is no blush of green buds and new growth on the mountains. The only green is the deep soft green of white pines, their paint brush stroke of needles splashed across the blue sky.

Spring is not yet here, so say the trees, and this is but a temporary reprieve. I drink up the sun while I can until my entire body glows with it. I will hold it within me, an ember of warmth against the cold to come.

The Archer

I try to breathe around the arrow in my chest, but can taste the bitter blood rising in my throat, can feel its warmth trickling from my lips and onto my cheek. I am all blood, hot and sticky, slowly fading into brown. A cold spring drizzle has begun and cools my war-fevered brow. I trail one hand in the water, leaving faint red ribbons in the current, soon swept away. My little boat bares me slowly away, away from blood soaked fields. Long I had hid in shadows, darting furtively around trees. Now the sun shines on me with watery brilliance from behind the clouds. With one weary hand I cast back my hood and squint at its milky face.

As my blood runs from my body, I begin to grow cold, and welcome the sun as it pushes away the trespassing clouds, replacing them with ribbons of blue breaking the gray monotony. The water brushes through my fingers and I turn them, catching new currents like wings. A fish nibbles at my fingers. “Too soon,” I laugh silently, for it pains me to speak, “patience.” I startle a nest of small, downy birds, just learning to fly. They spring from the reeds and flutter clumsily before disappearing once more.

It is spring and the reeds are moist and green. The wind trails through them, a hidden accompaniment to my final voyage. On the bank, two farm hands sit breaking bread. Already I feel disconnected from them, as inconsequential as the birds and the fish. They cry out upon seeing me and I flinch at their harsh voices, ringing with a language I once spoke. I wonder what stories they will tell of me, the silent figure in the boat, twisted over years to come.

Perhaps I shall become a ghost, haunting this river, hooded huntsman with an arrow in his breast.

I close my eyes; my vision has grown dark anyway, twilight of my life cloaking the sunny day. If I shut my eyes the sun remains, though I cannot see it. If I die, life will still continue, but without me. I do not try to guess what comes next. Heaven and Hell seem like a shallow hypocrisy. To simply vanish seems a waste. Perhaps it is simply this, floating upon the river until it joins the sea. Perhaps I am already dead.

I do not dwell on these thoughts, but rather on the sun barely warming my drained face, the wind vainly attempting to part my hair, matted to my forehead with blood and sweat. The pain in my chest is gone. I don’t remember what caused it. I have a vague recollection of war, but not why we were fighting. Comical it seems, to die for a cause that I have forgotten.

But it matters not. Who will win will win, and who will die will join me.

Distantly, as if I were underwater, I hear the beating of drums, calling me back to war, to life, but I sink deeper, until all around me is cool silence.

Something catches my boat, jerking me partially to the surface. A hand touches my face, searching for life and warmth.

“Does this river go to the sea?” I whisper.

“Yes,” the voice comes from far away.

“Then let me go, for I have never seen the ocean and would dearly love to.”

Hands lift mine, lay them crossed over my chest. Lips touch my brow, and they are warm like hearth stones on a winter’s night. My eyes flickered open briefly, catching sight of a young face with old eyes, wearing colors that stir within me a memory of adversaries. Tears touch my eyes and seal them shut.

“Be at peace,” the Archer whispers and releases me.

I drift into a semblance of sleep and wake to the sound of gulls.

Eyes in the Dark

They put little metal tags in the trees. I saw one winking like a bright eye in the light of a street lamp tonight. Everything was bright; the street lamps on the branches, bright gibbous moon and Orion overhead. The wind, springing up in sudden gales, almost seemed to carry light along its currents. I’ve been slowly overcoming my fear of the dark. It’s a fear everyone has, I believe, to some extent, a relic of former days.

It’s the idea of the unknown, the flicker in the corner of your sight, the feeling of eyes on the back of your neck, hand reaching out to touch your shoulder. But we have known these phantoms since we were born. We’ve always been afraid of them, but why? Does unknown equate bad?

I sat on a swing hung on a line between two trees. I looked up and watched the bare branches criss cross over the stars, winking in and out. The wind sprang up and swayed the trees, swayed the swing like a boat, the ropes creaking like rigging. I thought I heard a coyote howl born on the wind, but perhaps it was far off traffic contorted by distance. I howled back, smiling at my small voice in the dark, born on the wind to other ears.

Then I felt the eyes upon my neck. Swallowing fear, I looked round, but the eyes moved too, always behind me. Kicking the ground, I twisted the ropes together, then let them spin free, turning my head like a dancer, trying to catch sight of those elusive eyes.

I laughed; it was a game I played with the invisible wind which caught my body like a sail and sent me turning. For a moment, spinning in the dark, I forgot to fear. It was hide and seek with a master player.

I never did believe in guardian angels, though the idea of a being whose sole concern is your safety would be comforting. Now when I feel eyes in the dark, I wonder whose they are. Who is this playful phantom striding alongside us in the dark, on the edges of mirrors and in the rustle of leaves? As I strode back to my dorm I smiled, for a gale followed me, and eyes watched me in the dark.