Like the Loons on Oven Lake

Ben reflected on the flames licking from six chunks of maple he’d split that morning and pulled from the truck bed that evening. If he looked to his right, he may have noticed how Lissa’s brown eyes reflected the flames, too, only doubled. 

He just stared at the fire and sighed over his disabled truck, stuck there just off the old Adirondack logging road near Oven Lake. A less practical guy might think it looked like it was kneeling there in the brush, its headlight eyes peering into the dark like it was searching for something. 

But Ben was anything but impractical. Lissa told her sister that Ben had one direction – forward — and two speeds – fast and stop. She’d almost learned to accept him missing the right and left of things, like how Lissa’s heart beat twice as hard since her accident.

“I doubt you planned getting us stuck in such a mess. Too out-of-the-blue, even for you. Too many moving parts,” he said.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. But now that it has, I’m kinda glad it did. You know, we haven’t cuddled like this since…”

“Are you cold?” Ben said.

“Nope. I’ve got you and this fire to keep me warm,” Lissa said.

She kissed his cheek not facing the fire and noticed how it felt almost as cold hers was hot. She pressed her cheek against his. 

“So what are we going to do?” he said. “Why can’t you make a call?” Lissa still didn’t understood Ben’s refusal to carry a cell phone. How he said he felt uncomfortable being tailed by some invisible overseer. Maybe, she mused, like an electronic conscience. But that was Ben.

“Tomorrow morning we can walk out to where I have coverage. For now, I just want to snuggle under this blanket, the fire crackling, moon smiling down, the loons looning by the lake.”

Ben broke her cheek-to-cheek link and stared into her face glowing in the firelight. 

“Looning?”

“Sure, like how they’re being in the moment and dealing with things as they come.”

“Like large rocks hidden in the brush?” he said.

“Like nature revealing itself in its own time and its own way.”

“Like broken axles on an F-150 loaded with firewood and other unexpected…”

“You said you thought I’d be okay. And is it really so bad?”

“Hell, yeah, you need to be careful.”

“I thought I was. But I guess I was looning.”

“In the moment, eh?”

“Yes. You know how when things are too heavy and the momentum builds and you just can’t stop in time and…stuff happens. Right?” she said.

“Yeah. But look what your being in the moment got us. So when are you gonna…”

“Call? Tomorrow, soon as I can. Tomorrow.”

“Jesus! Wish you were more careful,” Ben said.

“Me, too.” Lissa said. “I’ll fix it all tomorrow.”

“Get some sleep, will ya?”

But Lissa’s stinging eyes already were closed tight as the wind shifted away toward the lake, carrying away the fire’s smoke with it. But not thoughts of the loons on Oven Lake and the accidents that got her there.

Here’s a double-sized version of my 250-word super-short story I drafted for Siobhan Muir’s weekly Thursday Threads feature. I had to use the phrase “you need to be careful” in it. This story started in one direction and then got Hemingway’d in an entirely different one.

It Goes Without Saying



We’ve waited so long 
to hear the other say it, 
dipping a toe here, 
not finishing a sentence there, 
looking into eyes that 
stare back with the same
hopeful glint. Or is it
a hopeless glimmer?
“Just say it,” you say 
without speaking.
“Can’t you tell me?” 
I sigh into a tackle box full of 
flashy interrogation marks.
And still neither of us bites.

Is it really that big a deal?
We’ve each heard the other
say it about this song or 
that ice cream or something
so small it only merits a
“um-hmm” in response.
But what if I said it?
What if you finally told me?
What would really change?
Especially since we’ve already
told each other without saying 
one word, let alone three.


Golden



I think it would be nice 
to spend an evening together. 
We could wax poetic about 
the waning play of light 
behind the trees, the houses, 
the curve of Earth, while watching 
the sun take its leave of us.
There’s a lot going on in that word…
evening. We say it and understand
it means sunset, dusk, gloaming,
but also when twilight balances 
in its hands those even shares 
of day and night and the golden hour 
takes the field, but gives you a gift 
I’ve seen only in my imaginings.
It would be nice to see you 
resplendent in such a setting, 
of place, of sun, of gold, 
a sunlit echo of days spent together,
nights apart, and moments when you 
were the jewel in evening’s crown.

Day 29 makeup for NaPoWriMo. And Evening poem.  As I noted, if you put that word on the table and pick at its parts from all angles, evening will tell you a lot. It can give a poet lonely for what was and for what wasn't, except in his imagination, the kind of image that'll last inside his eyelids all night long.

Welcome to My World



We share this physical world, 
but have always really lived 
in different ones our own. 
They run side by side 
so closely, almost intimately, 
in a metaphysical cosmos, 
we've almost touched - 
even feeling your breath 
grace my atmosphere - 
but we never really have. 
Most likely never will.
There have been times, though, 
I’ve thought of jumping 
the rails of my world, 
leaving behind its polished 
orbital monotony just 
to touch yours, only to envision 
the resulting train wreck 
such a conjoinment might
ignite. But for a moment,
maybe longer, what a bright light 
we’d give this woeful world 
we already share.

Day 27, a poem spinning off using "(Something) World" in its title.

Communication, I Feel



The words string out before you 
with my message from within.
And sometimes they’re just for two. 
But those? They’re hard to begin.

Written words are simply that,
black squiggles on a white field.
As deep as a sailor’s tat,
and yet they’re supposed to yield

a linkage of two minds where
we exchange gifts all year ‘round
with colorful wrap we’ll tear
revealing our thoughts, sans sound.

Communication, I feel,
the give and take between us,
on paper’s not quite ideal
and doesn’t take a genius

to wonder if other ways
might someday be allowed,
where we could meet face-to-face
or hear our voices out loud.

But if that’s not to happen,
I guess I can only say,
this keyboard I’ll be tappin’
and hope to touch you that way.


For Day 3 of NaPoWriMo, a "communication" poem. Sorry about the rhyme, but today that was the only "colorful wrap" (or even rap) I could find.

Through Such Twilight As This, Perhaps

 
 
 I used to see it wherever I went
 and now dream to see it if only once more.
 Even in pitch dark it’d shine in its own way, 
 on the ceiling as I lay alone on the floor.
 
 I could see it in shadowy memory, as well as 
 in the memory of shadows we’d cast.
 I’d see it even with my eyes closed, as if 
 it were the sun-bright thing I’d seen last.
 
 Yes, now it’s gone, like an imaginary friend,
 that a child learns one day to ignore.
 But I can’t ignore what my imagination describes
 some days, which I think is what my imagination’s for.
 
 And so this, another dream in winter daylight,
 whose vision grows longer as each week goes by.
 Even as the number of my days grows shorter,
 so too my vision fades no matter how hard I try.
 
 I guess then we’ll not see its like again,
 unless your sore heart and my mind's eye reconcile.
 But what I wouldn’t give once more to see, 
 through the twilight of my words, your true smile.

Figured I try to see if lightning would strike twice in the same week.  
 

Ice Cold

We used to walk along this shore, telling secrets and lies even we liars believed. 

During those cold December walks, we’d watch Winter grow its skin across the pond, pressing down the rippling mirrors that would catch your eye and pass its attention to the ones next to it. And they, in turn, to their neighbors, echoing it all back again.

And when the snow began to fall, light as a lover’s touch, it would cover the sheet of ice with lace, teasing us to guess if we could trust the ice to support us yet if we dared step upon it together.

“C’mon,” you’d always tease me as I tapped on the ice with my foot, “Where’s your sense of adventure? Haven’t you ever taken a chance in your life?”

And I told you I was taking a chance right then. To which you’d reply, “No you’re not. And believe me, you won’t fall.”

I think you meant fall through the ice. I thought of it as falling another way you’d never worry about, but I did. And wanted to.

I wanted to know what those others knew, the hidden knowledge that I’d only imagined. I wanted to feel the pleasure with you that others felt, but was afraid to take that step. Walk after walk, winter after winter.

“C’mon, take my hand,” you say and I finally feel the warmth of your hand in mine. You pull me toward you and grasp my arm as if we are a couple strolling along the edge of the ice-covered pond. But I know we’re really just two people sharing the same path, the same conversation, the same lies.

“All right,” you say, “I’m going to walk you out a bit and you go the rest of the way.”

“No, I don’t think so. I’d prefer if we just walk along like this,” I say and put my hand over yours as you squeeze my arm. The wind blows the snow across the ice as if it’s some ghostly skater carving edges like your fingernails are carving little moons into my hand.

You pull me closer and lean in to give me a kiss on the cheek, your lips warm, your cheek cold, eyelashes netted with snowflakes, the sound snatched by the wind as it whooshes by my ears. 

“Would you do it for me? For a real kiss?” you say, gazing into my eyes with an eagerness you’ve never offered me before. And I’m not sure what beckons me more, the ice, those snow-laced eyes, tempting lips, or my heart. 

“I’ll go with you. I promise. I just want to see you take a chance for once. Just so you can learn that sometimes the lessons we learn from them can last a lifetime.”

I want to do this so much. Not just because of the prize I could potentially receive upon completion of this dare, but also because I need to know what stops me. Always stops me.

“Okay, but I need some more incentive,” I say, suddenly demonstrating more nerve than I had in years.

“C’mere, you,” you say and mush your mouth to mine with a little lick of my lip on the way back to a smile I’m afraid will melt the ice before I get my chance to walk my way to the paradise I think you’re offering.

“Okay, let’s go. I’m getting kinda excited about this,” you say, grasping my arm again.

“Whoa, not so fast,” I say.

You tap the ice and say, “Nothing to worry about. And if you’re still nervous, just close your eyes and I’ll walk you out.”

“Uh, all right. Maybe if I could have just a little more of that warm courage you’re dispensing, I wouldn’t be so…you know,” I say with fear and lust battling in my gut like glandular gladiators.

“Close your eyes, silly,” you say and plant a big wet kiss on my cheek, squeezing me so close I almost can’t catch my breath. 

And then you drop your arms away, leaving me with the echo of that kiss ringing in my head.

“Just a couple more steps, love, then you can come back. I’m waiting right here for you.”

I turn and see you standing closer to the bank now. Your face impassive, like a marble Madonna, not giving any thought, desire, care. Just…waiting.

But I still can hear your kiss and the sound such a long kiss makes, soft, warm and wet, a constricted inhalation, yet sucking in the best of life, giving back such gratification. What a sweet memory today will be.

That is until I also remember it’s the sound thin ice makes as it rips open, sharp and cold, making one gasp, sucking him under, submerged, waking him to the knowledge almost no one else knows. What’s going on beneath that cold white facade? Now I know. Now I know it all.

“You’re welcome,” I thought I heard. 

No, love, it was my pleasure.

Can’t Change Who We Are

 
  
  I don’t really know you, just like 
  you never knew me. You assumed, 
  ever since once I opened my mouth, 
  and out came some impermanent impertinence, 
  as I spoke the thought of a moment.
  True, here and there I’ve expressed 
  myself embarrassingly in black and white, 
  that more enduring medium with which 
  I’ve abased myself.
  I can’t change who I am, though I can 
  always change my mind. If you 
  don’t believe that, then I guess 
  that’s proof perhaps you’ve 
  never changed, either. 
  That’s fine, though, I wouldn’t wish
  to change you. Well, maybe just 
  one opinion.
  I’m not…

Broken Promises


I’ve broken so many 
of my promises to you.
In all honesty, I didn’t mean to.
I hope you didn’t think I broke them 
because they have all been lies. 
I’ve never been able 
to keep a lie very well, either. 
You need a good memory 
to be a competent liar. 
And that is a talent I lost 
through years of falling and
breaking myself, like a promise.
In the end, what does it matter 
the promises one makes 
or the one’s one cannot keep?
A promise is but a wish 
not yet fulfilled. 
Kind of like all those you wished 
I’d never made and
all the ones I wished you had.
I’ve learned the unfortunate lesson
life’s too short to make many promises 
and it’s too long to tell many lies.
All either do is let you down.
Just like me.

My Heart’s Broken

They say even a broken clock can tell
the correct time twice each and ev’ry day.
But those frozen arms cannot ring one bell
and those works inside no tick nor tock say.

Within my chest a timepiece you will find,
one that can echo your heart’s song in rhyme.
It so thumps and bumps in front or behind,
musicians use it in songs to keep time.

But it’s my other heart of which I speak,
one that pumped out feelings, heady and strong.
This heart once gushed ink, now not a leak,
like the clock, ‘cept its timing’s always wrong.

My heart’s broken, shoulders dust-covered,
but it has no arms to reach, hands to touch.
My heart’s empty, where once t’was a cupboard
so full of love I gave away too much.

A clock can be repaired, and so a heart beating,
but can the one that poems to your heart sent?
Perhaps…if I find you still are reading,
but wonder where your heartfelt poet went.

I have no good answer for that query,
I’ve long sought it from someone up above.
To fix my heart, the one made you teary,
I don’t need ink, just a drop of your love.

Inspired by my listening all weekend, on REPEAT, to the brilliant Amy Lee and Evanescence’s “My Heart Is Broken.” Yes, I’m that obsessive. But some of you already know that.