When Winter Strikes

Roads close and windows freeze across our street with the frost of breaths matching the bus shelter as we huddle together, the seething snow blistering onto the glass as cars thrash through losing exhaust smoke into the atmosphere mixing with our clouds leering out from the horizon where we stare and then we see the bus crawling towards us and the crowd cheers, we look at each other with softened eyes and then the bus rolls by as it was already full.

 

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Describing Anthropocene

1.

In our: white flowers, purple petals, drifting spring cherry blossoms blooming by the birch bristling away at the wind with branches beneath the purple petals, poking from their broken limbs we see that the days have gotten a little longer.

2.

There’s a grove by our home that’s now alone, surrounded by paved roads and the smog that flows around its brittle branches slowly dampen the soil in leaking exhaust. We spend our weekend afternoons doing recreational cleanup, the homeless gathering with stained rugs and cups of lukewarm coffee, stale bread from the bakery (given to shoo them away) and when they see a passing couple, or flash-stained tourists they tell us, and we thank them, and we pick up pieces of plastic, or forgotten ticket stubs, and when the wind blows with the grass we all stop to watch it all dance.

3.

 I buried a time capsule under the oak tree in our yard, and when we had to leave that home I’d forgotten all about it. I’d only remembered when I saw a group of boys burying their own capsule by the park near our new home, years later. I asked my parents if they knew our old address, and they told me. But when I went to see if it was still there, the oak tree was cut down. Someone walked by and I asked if they lived in the area, and they said yes, and so I asked if they knew about the oak tree that used to brim in the sky. They told me it was probably because it seemed to take up too much space.
4.

Last year it snowed, brightly, in shades of bristling shining white. This year, as well. It’ll snow with long nights, and we’ll all say how much we hate the snow, the cold. We’ll shiver when the strong breeze comes for us unexpectedly and we’ll all laugh at how much our teeth chatter and when we go out we’ll know it’s cold when our breaths form in short clouds and the ground follows us as well. Next year, as well.

Describing Waves

1.

Shimmering crescendo waves bloomed as a stone dived its way in, sinking to the bottom, as they do.

2.

The tip of my finger sunk through the surface, my smoldering skin singing and the hiss seemed to follow the outpouring waves.

3.

I was pushed into the lake, with one hand outstretched from his shaded face and by the small glimmers of sun that peaked through his bangs, he smiled, and when I banged through the surface, I listened to the outpouring waves that left where my body came and I clawed forward, reaching for the surface. When I popped out, I saw him, looking at me, his hands still outstretched, where my body used to be, and I told him, “what kind of father pushes their own son into a lake?” and he looked at me, his eyes hiding behind the shadows that painted over his face, and he lowered his hand, and he stared through me.

4.

We baked pancakes by the lake. The stones we used were cold by the shore, but as the evening went on, she gave me her scarf. My first stone barely made a skip, plopping into the lake, a solid wave expanding and then dissipating. She laughed at that. But when she went, hers went straight down as well. I laughed, and then I winded my arms, and shot another stone, watching as it made two skips before plopping in. The two waves it made both collided at the apex of their travel, the interference blending their lines together. She whistled, smiled, winded, and bellowed her breath, her golden hair finding the sun, and her stone was off. Not a single skip. We laughed.

5.

We wanted to see if we could see it so we tightened the string between our cups, and we walked as far as it took us. She tugged when I tried to keep moving forward indicating that she couldn’t move backwards. Then, I pressed my ears in my cup, and waited. Soon, her words whispered within the small silence in the air. When she was done speaking, she ended her sentence in an, “all done.” Then I brought my mouth to the opening of the cup, the string taped towards the small circle pointing at me. I spoke, and told her that I heard her loud and clear. I ended my sentence in an, “all done.” She spoke back, and she told me to hold my cup as still as possible and yet also not holding it so that I could influence the string. I ended up balancing it lightly on my palms. And, without further words, I watched. After a few minutes, I brought my cup back to my ears and listened to her ask me if I could see anything move with the strings.  I said no. And she said it was a shame, that she really wanted to see if our words could be physically tracked through the string. I told her she was weird. And she said she knew.


 

A short writing exercise, where I take a subject or broad subject, in this case “waves” and really narrow it down and put it into something specific, expanding on the subject as much as possible and describing a feeling or moment.

Where We Stand

Where We Stand

“I’ll always be above this line.

Here, the water is drenched in some kind of rust but,”

maybe it’ll be treated and if treated I won’t have to say

that being here drains me, but I can live here, and I can taste the water here.

Here, I’ll know where you’ll be, and you’ll always know

the sun bleeds orange onto the pavement. And

splotches of paint, end up where leaves gather on manholes, where

It’s just, sometimes, always, empty, by my side, but that’s okay since

I’ll always be above this line.


Below this line, is where I’ll be.

Here. And I know that

I can see shades of orange, bleeding into the pavement;

loose splotches of paint from the bulbs, coming together,

the stars, the moon,

Every step echoes in a crunch as leaves break. It all molds,

My eyes shut tightly to let it all find me, a soft ebb and flow.

Then I stop. The streetlights flicker, and it leaves an afterimage.

It’s empty. I can almost see you.

I stretch my arms to find you, but when I open my eyes.

Nothing.

And then I remember, where you are and I’ll say,

“Below this line, is where I’ll be.”

Tell Me When It Rains

Tell Me When It Rains

And if you do I’ll bring an umbrella.

And if you do I’ll drift my hands over the balcony, letting it drip onto my fingers.

And if you do I’ll make sure to open my windows and let the humidity linger, my plants soaking, no longer lounging in its hunger.

And if you do I’ll know when to throw up my wind chimes, singing with the rain, a ballet for a storm, ringing with a short shingle, dancing with the small drips that find its way onto the fading iron.

And if you do I’ll know when to watch for errant bolts of lightning that may cause forest fires or damage to property, living or not, and listen for the thunder, shaking my pulse pulling my blood blaring rumbles across my chest chaining my legs letting it all freeze.

And if you do I’ll make sure to have my blinds closed so that only the small glimmers of the droplets find their way as I listen to the pitter patter, pitter patter, pitter patter.

And if you do I’ll drift through my sleep, the soft songs luring its way into my weighted eyes.

And if you do I’ll bring an umbrella.

 


I like the rain, and the snow. The feelings that emerge from it, the stillness, the way things seem to change despite nothing really changing. So here, I wanted to do a little bit of an endeavor, a little bit of play on structure, and also to express some motions about rain. Just something short, and sweet, I think.

In The Ground Where We Lay

In The Ground Where We Lay

None of us can say otherwise that the time we spent together was a lie….Or at least, that’s what I told myself. To fly back to where we all congregated under an open sky was…not something everyone could afford; reasonable, understandable. But…empty. It makes being the only one who stayed behind, just that, the only one who stayed behind.

Our old elementary school was shut down due to lack of attendance. And by association: population. Not many people chose to have children in this area, stained by miles of old homes, with unkempt yards and glaring stares. Every once in a while a car would slowly trudge by the streets, kicking up loose stones. They were there to keep an eye on us. On those small cliques that roamed the streets with echoing laughs. On those men in suits who were just a tad bit too wary. And on those that were just there to live. Finding my way around them was just another day.

Except, on that day in my hands was a sheet creased with the years it was tucked away in my room. Fluttering away sheets of bills and loose clothes led me to find the envelope it was sealed in. Handled by neglect, I opened the letter to find our childhood sprawled on a map.

From my house to the school, it was a few streets away. Enough time to let the sun glare off of the broken glass. Enough time to let the sun fill the space between alleys (to wake those who didn’t know better). Enough time to see that my phone was shaking with a call from a place beyond the sky.

“I didn’t think you would pick up, Tristan. It’s been…a long time, hasn’t it?” Her voice spilled into my ears with a slight reverberation.

“It’s been a long time for everyone, Lili.” Her name slowed my steps. A few bodies came down the streets with loose eyes. Ignoring them, I held the map in one hand, watching as it flapped with the chill winds. In the distance, I heard the laughs of those hanging by the remaining corner shops. Turning into the streets, those laughs flooded over my face.

“So you really are going to go back there? Knowing it’s still there might be nice but…that was a long time ago.” Her words were light as they filled my mind. Light syllables. Light breaths. Light filled the empty corner stores. They always did.  Even as children, running by those shelves of candy and snacks made those lights warm. It was a pointless pastime. But it was our time.

“I’ve made my decision. This is what I want to do. And I’m going to do it, no matter what.”

I listened to her light breath.

“No one’s asked you to. And, no one particularly wants you to. But you’ll do it anyway. I guess that’s just who you are in the end, right?” Her words stung me. Stuck in the middle of the street, I listened as she gave a small chuckle.  A couple came walking down the street, an oddity. But they smiled and laughed, glaring past me.

“That might be so. But, it’s also who you are to call like this. No surprise there. That’s just who you are in the end.” The gates to the school blew into view. They were rusted, peels of brown beginning to fall towards the clawing grass.

“In the end we haven’t changed at all.” I smiled at her words.  Bracing my feet, I steeled myself for a climb, tracing my skin to the rough edges of the iron. Scraping against my hands, I felt small taps litter my palms. Taking in a waft of the material brought my mind out of it until I flipped to the other side.

The building was left all the same; worn bricks and dusted windows faced me as the flag waved gently in its faded pole. The double doors leading to the main entrance had its paint chipped, revealing a soft grey under its blue. Nudging its handles produced a large clash. Trying anymore only puffed up more dust. Leaning towards the glass panels I squinted for a peek but found nothing. Pressing my ears towards the doors I heard a few creaks, and skitters. Must have been rats; the new students. Checking the map, I doubled around the entrance, to where the yard was used for recess.

“Do you still remember what we left in there?” I hummed at her words; five children running around town as if the world revolved around our laughs, our smiles, or our games….It was incredibly, well, childish. Those laughs, and those smiles, and those games still lingered, in those who hung in the streets, in the alleys, and in the empty stores.

“Not in the slightest,” I lied.

“I see. Well, I hope whatever it is that we did leave, makes for a wonderful reunion.”

The yard sprouted an array of dandelions overtaking: the swings, the sandbox, and the slides. In a single gust, puffs of white all swayed as if they were there to fill the missing time. Beyond this was a tiny space where the school used to keep a garden tucked away for study. Drawing the cycle of life as we grew with those flowers and trees made for…something none of us could forget, or at least that’s what I told myself.

“You must be at the garden now. It was in part an excuse to have us experience life as it was to be greener.” She gave a small chuckle. “But it was nice.”

“It really was. Do you think, those drawings might have found their way in?”

“Maybe they did. Would you be happy if they did?”

I turned her words over and forced my feet to move forward.

“I’m not sure,” I lied. The garden itself was a tidy guardian, with towering trees holding lumbering leaves and brandishing branches. Wild flowers and even small animals made their homes here. A tear in the fence might have let them in, an admission to study. The school had always taken up far too much space for its good. But it was our place, our home, when the morning came, and our time, crawling through it all.

“What do you want to be in that time capsule?” I couldn’t help but laugh with her question. In the distance, I could hear the slight drift of a car.

“Maybe a picture would be nice. A picture of our smiles or even just how it used to be before. Maybe a picture of the school, of the streets, anything of that time.” Pushing away gnawing branches and watching my steps, I listened to the small of her breath.

“If there was a picture, would you share it with the others? I’m sure it would make for a nice moment.”

“Yeah. Yeah, if there was a picture, then I think it’d be nice for all of us to see it again,” I lied.

“Do you think we’ve grown up since then?”

I laughed.

“Of course. That’s just how things are. If we’re the same then things would be –” The words that tried to complete my sentence spilled itself to the floor, lumping with the dirt. “Horrible.” Another lie.

With the overgrowth, the map quickly became minute. Just winding paths and sprouting bushes greeted my every step. However, there should have been a clearing in all of that mess. A place where we came together to bury what I came to find. It had always been like that, parted away from the flowers we studied, and even the teachers never stepped foot in that circle.

“What about you Lili? What do you want in a time capsule?”

“Candy.” Her declaration stung my body, though not enough to hold it in place. I held in my laughter.

“I see. Yeah, that might be nice.”

The vegetation began to thin. My body slowed, catching itself in the strutting rocks. I held onto a tree for support, before my legs began tapping. It was close. Edging on further I met with the sun, filtering through the leaves. Even further, the leaves stopped, and the sun met my eyes. A circle stained only by grass presented itself. Near the edges of the clearing, small petals gathered. None made it to the center, but they all grasped with every breath of wind that came. Breaking into that sunlight, I stepped over the petals.

“What do you think the others would have wished for in our time capsule?”

My body ached the more I moved forward. Holding my sweat, I gave a light breath. Landing at the center of the clearing made my arms shake. Leaning over, I let my arms rest over the soil, until they began to dig, the motions finding themselves.

“The others? Maybe…money? Though would we really have had that kind of foresight?”

She gave a slight laugh.

“In that case, maybe a favorite book?”  Every handful came with hardened breaths. The only rest I had was in my words. “I’m not sure any of us were big readers. But maybe a picture book. Though the box wasn’t that big I think. As children, did we really have anything to treasure? Maybe it really is just candy.” Soon enough my hands became numb. Thinking about the sensation halted my body.

“I think you might be right about that. But, would you really think we went through all that effort just to stow away some candy? We must have been an ambitious group then.” Repeating her words let my hands continue.

“Ambitious?”

“How would you describe us? After all these years…I wonder what you would say.”

Soon enough, a hard clank stopped my digging. Rooting it out, I was thrown back. Stained in dirt and glimmering lightly underneath its veil, I laughed.

“We were really great friends back then, at least. And now?” I let my eyes rest on the fading metal. “I’m not sure.” Another lie. We didn’t keep a key. But my hands shook as they held onto its top. An airplane above shattered the air as I closed my eyes.

“How would you describe us? With someone like me, I’m not sure my answer would be very viable.” Striding over its top, I let the rust singe my skin.

“Do you really want to know?” Trying to answer her made my words scramble across my mouth. The only thing I could do was trace the metal box, tracing the path our young fingers must have took to bring it underground. Tracing the words we must have said as we buried it together. Tracing the laughs we had…the laughs we must have had.

“I don’t.” Letting my fingers over the cover, I lifted our capsule open. She laughed.

“You’ve finally become honest.”

I strode my hand against its empty bottom.

Lilith was gone.

So was everyone else.

I stayed.

Though, surely the time we spent together had happened, and the smiles and the laughs and the games and the warmth of the light we let each other have surely had to have happened.

 

Nameless

Nameless

Clarus, or Clara, or Claris found her phone buzzing far too much for an afternoon at the office. The weight of her eyes drowned until her head found itself on the glass end of the screen. A slight bang resounded, and the glow followed to goad her awake. She widened her eyes and grabbed her phone. Mother was calling again. Wouldn’t be the first nor the last.

Sweeping her phone away, a notification fluttered onto her computer screen. It was blinking red, peering itself away from the faint glow of the office. Casey told her to pack up for the day, but that meant going home. That meant seeing her mother, who barricaded herself in her home for her birthday. Clicking on the notification prompted another screen to flash its way into view.

“That one’s got some luck.” Casey peered over her shoulders, hair falling onto her eyes.

“I thought you were gone. Like two hours ago.”

Casey chuckled, placing a cup of coffee onto an opening between piles of papers filled with names – her own sat nicely against her lips. Her darkened hair swung in the night, blending itself at the corner of her eyes. Blinking lights beamed in through the windows. She watched as they tried to fill the office.

“You giving him a name?” Casey asked. “Technically you don’t have to. Technically no one knows you’re on the job. And technically you would be putting the company under a lot of legal scrutiny.”

“And technically you shouldn’t be here when you went up and told me you were going home for the night. But I guess we’re both bad at technicalities.”

“But you are giving him a name, right?” Casey’s eyes locked on the window that hovered on her screen. A smile appeared on her face as she drew on every bit of information that was given by the hospital – a hiker found him.

Clarus, or Clara, or Claris let out a breath at Casey’s eyes. She looked out of the window, watching as the cars streamed by. Her phone was shaking again. Casey leaned onto the window, her coffee’s steam losing itself in the low light of the office. She took a sip, watching the back of her head as it leaned into her chair.

In an hour the hospital who found him would stop sending information. It was up to her to give them a name. They worked on commission; every ten names gave them a cup of coffee, maybe more if their manager wasn’t high out back. “Naming centers” were one of very few places in the city that had its particular role. Though it wasn’t a position anyone wanted to be lucrative. It was just giving names.

“Why did you decide to stay, Clara?” Casey turned her eyes to Clara, who stared at the steam.  The streets stopped for a moment. She tapped her foot to every second the red lights were on.

“No reason really, I just wanted to.” Casey shifted her eyes to Clara’s words. She let her feet take every pulse of her body, standing against the window. Placing the cup down, she traced the rim with her finger. Slowly, the steam enveloped her skin.

“I mean at this job, giving names. I’ve been here much longer than you have and I’ve told you my reason. But from these few years, you’ve never given me one.”

Clara traced the cap of the cup Casey left for her, letting her fingers burn, reciting the document in front of her: male, stable condition, wrapped in a blanket. She held onto those words, finding the image of her own blanket warm against the short breezes that seeped in. Clara kept the blanket her mother found her in, cleaning it along with the rest of her clothes. On slow nights she held the blanket close to her as she watched the sky, shades of moonlight peering into her eyes.

“Clara?” Casey watched as Clara’s eyes beamed across the page. She gave a light smile lifting her cup, and sipped as the streets ran with the grain of the shooting stars. She could feel her weight push into the glass the more Clara ran the information in her head: well-nourished, a few months, home birth. If the hiker hadn’t found the child, he would’ve died to the cold. Though it seemed from the time he was abandoned the hiker was already walking the path of being a founder.

Clara shifted her eyes as that word rang in her head. Founder. The hospital used that term for those who turned in nameless children. If they had signed documents to adopt, they would update the sheet to mother or father. If not, in a year or two they would be sent to an orphanage. But at least then they would have a name. Clara hovered over that section. Her mother was waiting. She knew. Give another hour into midnight and she would drive down and drag her out. Of course she would.

“And in the two years we’ve been working together you always space out like that.” Casey stared at her cup, watching the loose steam. She picked up a sheet, reading the printed names of found children that Clara didn’t hand in to be commissioned. Their time of completion was after ten; the end of their shift, the closure of business.

“I could do anything to you, and you wouldn’t notice.” Casey traced her hand over Clara’s hair, brushing every strand between her fingers. Clara continued; length of eyes, color of eyes, shape of eyes. And in some instances extra information can be requested.

“Though I guess being noticed is just something I have to work on.” Casey brought her hand out of her hair. Clara’s phone was still vibrating. Casey finished her cup, and tossed it into the bin, pumping her fist when it entered. “Haven’t scored in two weeks! No wonder they kicked me out of the team in high school.”

Clara’s hand moved to the mouse, beaming over the button to request more information. Every sheet scattered across her desk was printed with an appendix regarding eyes. Casey watched her hands shake. Her hand raced to the keyboard. The streets and the quiet hum of the computer melded in Casey’s mind. She closed her eyes, focusing on the way Clara’s breath pulsed when she concentrated. In the next instance, she opened to Clara reading new messages. Once Clara had read the information thrice over, she slouched on her chair, looking at the time. Her feet tapped with every minute.

“What are your options?” Casey asked.

“Alon. Oliver. Perry.”

Casey mulled the names over in her head. She peered over her shoulder, reading the information again, skipping over the details about the eyes.

“They all deal with trees?” Casey brought her back against the glass. Clara let the silence drag until Casey chuckled. “You’re always particular about your names, huh. That’s just how you are. They’re all wonderful names.”

“It’s reassuring to have your approval.”

Casey hid her smile, watching as Clara typed her choices in a notepad.

“Have you ever told me what your name meant?” Casey watched as Clara’s phone rang again.

“You’ve never asked.”

“Which is why I’m asking now.”

Casey couldn’t help but continue smiling as Clara tapped her cheeks while whispering every name. She let the words roll off her tongue, changed the way vowels left her mouth, and counted syllables.

“Clarus.” Clara took in a breath. “Not ‘is’ but ‘us’ though I make everyone call me Clara since it sounds –”

“More appropriate?”

Clara nodded.

“Though wouldn’t Claris been fine as well?”

“It sounds…Too pretty.”

Clara flipped over one of the loose sheets and rummaged in her desk for a mechanical pencil. Once found, she began scribbling the names. She wrote: quickly, then slowly, then in cursive, then in blocks, then back in cursive, then freehand. Every stroke left a letter in her mouth. And when the name was finished, she trilled them in a hum: then in a song, then as a greeting, then as a goodbye.

“I think Clara is a pretty name.” Casey’s words flew over Clara’s ears. Her phone was raging. She picked up, watching the glow of the screen. Her breath broke out in waves. No. Not yet. The glowing stopped as the call stopped. Clara placed her phone down. Back to writing. Casey fingered through more loose sheets, reading about every found child who was granted a name by a woman who didn’t garner credit. Those names all fell out of her mouth like clear water. Without thinking, she let ‘Clarus’ slip out. Clara’s hand slipped for a moment.

“What do you think?” Clara asked.

“Like I said, I’m sure any name you –”

“About my name. My real name.” The air stilted, and the soft pulses of her breath emerged. Casey tried to find her eyes, but Clara was locked onto the names in front of her.

“What does it mean?”

Clara found her documents by accident. Strewn across the page, Clarus rung in her mind; that was the same day she decided she wanted to give names to other children. She’d never gone home since.

“Bright. Clear. Illustrious.”

Casey gave a small hum to those words. She smiled.

“That’s a good name. It’s a wonderful name.”

“Thank you.”

Casey lowered her head to Clara’s shoulder, letting her warmth exude over her as she continued writing. When she was done, she typed in the name she had decided, “Oliver”, and sent it back to the hospital.

“Do you think he’ll like it?” Clara asked.

“I’m sure with a name like that, he’ll have many friends, and he’ll find a good family. No one will know about where he came from, with a wonderful name like that.”

“I hope so.”

Clara leaned back into her chair, watching as the screen in front of her blinked lightly. She turned to the window, a stream of moonlight being interrupted by the short glow of her screen. Clara yawned for the first time that night. Even with her mother clawing at the back of her mind, she let it all drown with her eyes, listening to Casey’s tiny breaths, rewinding the way she called her Clarus.