Restless

I didn’t know if she awoke before I did or I before she. I only know I could feel her eyes upon me.

Just not her touch.

“Yes, another restless night,” I said.

“No, you didn’t keep me awake,” I lied.

The ceiling did. Consciousness did. Worry did. Old truths did. Fantasies did. Longing did. Guilt did. I did. But I couldn’t tell her that.

“No, I didn’t know I kicked and thrashed all night,” I said. But the covers lying in disarray on my side told a different story. One where if looked as if I ran and swam and crawled my way across this No-Man’s-Land searching for somewhere to tuck in until the barrage lifted. But dawn lifted first.

I looked over at the clock and, as it has for the past weeks, it taunted me with a left-hand number less than six.

“I don’t know if I can make it today,” I said, sensing that sinking feeling in my chest again, an emptiness like it had been crushed dry. But I knew I had to get up and bump my way through another day, fighting off the sleep that never quite came last night.

“No, I haven’t dozed off again, just…gathering myself,” I said. I’d been locked in another bout of the woolgathering inattentiveness on the daydreams that substituted those I never had at night anymore. Night had become a wasteland of artillery flashes, reds and yellows and whites cutting through the darkness, after which the colors of days were smothered by the darkness of exhaustion.

“I wish I knew,” I said when she asked why I’d had another rough night. But she knew why as well as I did.

I took a deep breath, sighed it away like I’d sighed away another restless night, filling the room with wordless exclamations, near-silent calls for rescue. Sighed it away like I sighed away the covers on my side. Sighed it away like I would this day and the last and most likely the next.

But before I pulled myself from the ravaged percale plain upon which we lost another hope without a dream to support it, I kissed my fingers to reach out and touch her, to let her know one more time. But they came to rest upon her empty pillow with which I shared these nightly battles between damned consciousness and blessed oblivion.

My very short story for Day 19 of my May 2017 story-a-day challenge. No outside prompt today. Just a carryover from the poem I woke to at that ungodly hour again. These too-short, dreamless nights can kill you, but they also can inspire you to dreamy inspiration, too. Until you finally drop…

Tangled Thoughts and Blankets

Another night of the toss and thrash
for reasons I cannot swallow.
Accusations of my alleged misdeeds
echoed ’round my bed, this room,
my life, now left so hollow.
I couldn’t have been so callous
as to ignore the doleful stares and
angry glares stealing my sleep all night.
Were they merely the burned-in faces
of the sun my eyes projected,
after my apologies rejected,
and so gazed too long into its light?
And now dawn leaks over the sill
to fill the room with morning.
Another night lost, adding to the cost
of two lives I ruined without warning.

My Guilty Displeasure

Where was I when you needed me?
Needed whatever it is one seeks
from another when life deals them
a blow batting them to the lowest
point a person can hit, only
to find you can fall even further
when a friend failed to be a friend?
I was falling too. Falling in
my failure to sail to your aid,
beating myself for listening to
the other voices instead of choosing
my own choices and negating
my nature to nurture those I love.

The cost of becoming lost from
my life’s path was greater than
suffering the wrath of someone
I would never wish to hurt.
But that’s what I do, time after time,
no reason, no rhyme, ever reaping
the bitter fruit sown by a soul
who left the road we walked,
when my shoulders were wide.
I can’t hide from the accusing eyes
reflecting and rejecting the Me
I see not in a mirror, but on these pages
I can’t stop filling with mea culpas
and confessions. But now I know how
to stop the guilt before it can start.
Don’t blindly accede to the advice of others.
Instead, use my head and heed the
Creed of my heart.

Day 12 of NaPoWriMo, where I combined the prompts of penning a poem about Guilt and one that used Alliteration and/or Assonance as feature factors. Hope I’ve accomplished that, as well as the job I try to make most of these reflections do.

Fiddleneck

Amsinckia eastwoodiae in lower Kern Canyon by Tom Hilton via Wikipedia

Amsinckia eastwoodiae in lower Kern Canyon by Tom Hilton via Wikipedia

The exhalation of air conditioning sounds like the day’s last breeze combing the trees by our old pasture. Well, waking from Lorazepam makes it seem so.

Brown eyes above glisten like old Sally’s when she’d follow you weeding by the woods. Hear Sal’s lowing? Something like “six m-o-o-onths to three years if we remo-o-o-ve it now-o-o.”

Remember how the fiddleneck always returned so you just gave up pulling it? Liver failure the Vet said. Never forgiven yourself.

Her brown eyes again, “Afraid that’s the best scenario.”

You smile, and say, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Story #3 of my Story-A-Day May quest. In this case I used both prompts. The first called for writing a drabble, a story consisting of exactly 100 words. Now who do you know who has an obsession about writing 100-word poems? Yeah. The other prompt called for ending the poem with a great closing line of a famous or favorite novel. Ya’ll know how I love “The Sun Also Rises.” I read it twice a year. Well, here’s my little drabble, punctuated by that symbol of the Lost Generation, Jake Barnes.

The Things I Carry

fireworks

Image Credit: James Speed Hensinger | Vietnam 1970

That dream returned last night, the one where shadows
dressed for bed crawl toward my resting place.
All I can do is lie there and wait,
knowing it’s coming, pickled in a perspiration
exotic, torporific, frantic, paralytic.
I dream these nights of being in-country,
asleep in a faraway land I did not know,
but in a bed I do.

The dark figures, with faces vaguely familiar,
sometimes raid my slumber when I see
their waking work in an old friend or
in scorching color on television.
My dream-self awakens to the nightmare pop-pop-pop
of small arms fire, the b-r-r-rap-b-r-r-rap
of the M-60 spitting All-American fireworks
into three-dimensional silhouettes, and then
comes the tripwire boom of upright, soaking reality
in which I do not wear olive armor on my back 
nor upon my shoulders lug a sackful of
the things they carried.

My burden has no measurable weight but that
which I give it. My rank is guilty civilian,
a lifer who lucked out in the 1970 lotto
that saw boys next to me busted by
an insane spin of numbers.
Awake in this safe and dark bedroom,
I envision bodies and lives broken,
maimed, lost. And God help me, there are times
when I lie back down and stare at those ghosts
on the dark ceiling, and in some distorted sense
of shame and confusion, I may envy some 
their losses.

I had a hard time with this one. I wrote a very “Joe” fireworks poem yesterday in its place, but every time I looked at the photo up there, a prompt from my friend Kellie Elmore, this new (too darn long) poem came exploding back at me. It’s something that’s been simmering inside me — even wrote a short story about it — since long before I ever saw that photo. I post it with great reservation because I revere what these guys suffered and endured and don’t wish to diminish or dishonor that with the prattling of some stupid hump of a middle-aged “poet.” I guess what I’m trying to say is I had to write this someday.