Tag Archives: forgetting

The Gifts of Grieving

At the center of each of us
A deep pool glistens
A well of tears
Fed from rivers of remembering

Here, exhausted hearts stop to rest
To spill the growing grief of moonless tides
Gently, waves wash gnarled bent hands
And the gaunt faces of mothers with stillborn dreams

Sorrow of sisters who could not tell their stories
Weary weeping borne with the nameless burdens
No time to reflect, slow down and ask questions
No time to repair all that’s worn through and ragged

Sunlight slowly smooths the surface
And the fog of forgetting retreats
Peaceful honesty, soft touch of gold hues
Soothes the swirling swells to calm

And from the vivid depths of human losses
I witness myriads of mirrored faces
See myself reflected in them all
As have millions of eyes before mine

Eyes that have watched deserts
Being formed from women and children
Singed with the screaming
Sparks of raw hatred

Eyes that closed yearning
For the warm welcome of family
In between long hours
The endless hunger of the red-splashed anger

We cannot evaporate the charred scars of our choices
Some tracks of tears weren’t meant to be dried
Healing hides in this quiet reservoir of keening
I will tend it tenderly with salty rain

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Keys to the Forgotten Song #writephoto

In the beginning the keys were known. Their place and purpose was common knowledge. They were discussed in passing as we might talk about the weather, the planning of meals, or the news. The keys made life what it was: they unlocked the people’s joys and sorrows, they opened new spaces within which to begin, become and belong. They gave them access to adventure, growth, grieving and love, finding and leaving, succeeding and failing, wanting and being enough.
The keys kept the song of the world in tune, according each the measure of who they were, each knowing the reasons for the bars in the way, each aware of the immense value of the rests and how the melody could not proceed where silence was not allowed.

And then, gradually, the keys were forgotten, lost. No one could say what or where they were. No children were taught their purpose and meaning. No elders wove stories of love and belonging, grief and mending. Soon enough, such neglect took its toll.

First, the threads, soft strings that kept the world in tune, in resonant resilience, began to unravel. For the most part this unraveling went unnoticed. Only the composers among the people, trained to listen deeply to the ever present song, heard the dissolution into discord. They would often give voice to the unstable harmonies, the discordant measures, trying desperately to change the way notes were conducted over and over again long after their time had passed. Most of their warnings fell on deaf ears. Sometimes people merely increased the volume of their own individual melodies in order to drown everything else out; sometimes the composers new and disturbing melodies would abruptly be brought to an end. These latter reactions made the music of the world more and more unbearable. The strings screeched and snagged, scratched and snapped. And this calamitous clamor only amplified, increasing in tempo and pitch.

People grew frantic and desperate. They no longer could remember what the song was for, or why it existed at all. In their forgetting, they began to no longer value individual melodies. In the forgetting, they lost their threads of their stories. In their forgetting, they no longer understood the necessity of rests, that music needed not only sound but its absence to survive.

So the people found it normal to insist that the best melodies were those which never had pauses, but went on and on without ceasing. They invented ways to play ever longer series of notes without ceasing. One of the fastest ways to do this was to play the same notes over and over again without ceasing. Eventually, generations of people never rested, but lived and died without ceasing, in ignorance of the sound of silence.

Finally the time came when this arrangement was no longer a sustainable option for anyone. The din was chaotic, catastrophically cacophonous. No one wanted to part with their many unmusical creations which they valued so dearly. And so it was decided that the song should be shut away. For so long the people had shut out the silence, confining it to emptiness the way one might drive light into its shadow. In a strange twist of fate, the land ceased its singing, and the shadow was all that remained.

The people needed a way to contain such a vastly woven web of song which for so long had throbbed at the center of life like the heart and soul of the world. At once the greatest engineers of the land held a great convention at which it was decided that they should forge an iron chest and that the song should be confined to it, instead of being allowed as it was to flow and flood everyone and everything, sending as it did so the pulse of itself everywhere.

The task was undertaken immediately, and people were congratulated on how much progress they made as they worked ceaselessly to finish, day and night. At its completion, they poured the song inside, slamming the heavy lid to seal it in with a clang. It is said that, though many lost their lives in the chest’s creation, once it had been buried no one could remember how to cry for their lost ones. They did not even know how to speak to one another. Now, even the song is lost, hidden in the land where it awaits the time when once again it is set free to restore balance to the earth and soften the hardened and harsh hearts of humankind.

I don’t know why I was the one to discover the chest these centuries later, its hinges twisted and rusted with time, its three locks mocking and massive, its contents as mysterious as the legend left to us in our fading memory.

Perhaps, as I have been told I came from a line of composers, I was simply blessed with the fortune: whether good or ill I cannot yet say. All I know is the all-consuming search for the keys. All I have to follow is this single stray note according to which I can discover them. It reads: “Compassion, Gentleness, Division: at their beginning, these words hold the keys. For these are all that is needed to set singing a changing, growing, turning world. Each breaks the heavy heart of silence. Each turns a lock in the chest. When each is placed where it belongs and all three are held equally together, the song will return.”

The first part is easy enough to figure out. The beginning letters of the words are C, G, and D. But as to how and in what way these could be keys, I cannot say. Perhaps you remember?

In response to Sue’s photo prompt, The Chest.

The Collective: A Short story _ Part 1

I can’t recall the day we moved into the three story house. It was the first house I lived in which had a basement and an attic, not to mention more stories than one. I do remember the basement being quite friendly. The previous owners built it up into almost another floor, with real walls and carpeting, and even a tiny bathroom. My brothers and I used it as a general playroom and often hid down there from our parents.

The rest of the house was standard enough. We settled into the three bedrooms upstairs, my brothers sharing a room to themselves, and I, being the oldest and only girl, taking a room to myself. On the middle floor above the family room, mom set up a warm and welcoming kitchen area, and at first, I would sit at the table, talking to her while she made our meals. My brother, Billy, seemed to have an almost permanent claim on the desk in the dining room, where he played computer games with his new expensive surround sound speakers. Carl, my other brother, was far more quiet and serious. I remember that sometimes I would find him reading on the couch, a distant look in his eyes.

At first, nothing was odd or out of the ordinary except for the story of the people who lived there before us. Apparently none of the neighbors ever saw them out and about, and then one day, the place was abandoned. The woman next door walked home one night to find the doors wide open, the family car feebly idling in the front yard, and a lone child sized flipflop forlornly lying on the cement, apparently not important enough to come back to retrieve. Concerned, the neighbor cautiously peered inside, turning on a light.

“It was the strangest thing,” she explained to us on the day before we moved in. “The place looked as if it were in the middle of being lived in. A book on the coffee table, all furniture in the usual places, an untouched casserole sat on the counter, a day past its prime. The TV chattered away in the living room with no one to watch it. The only thing missing from that house were the people who lived there. They just… disappeared… and took nothing with them but the clothes on their backs.”

After the house remained abandoned for several months with no sign or communication from the family, the landlord went in there to clean it up: sold what he could, took quite a bit else to the dump. Then he went up into the attic, shocked to discover what appeared to be an entire family’s belongings, the kind of items someone would have owned 70 or 80 years ago. Much of it was rotten and molding, to the point that it would be dangerous to breathe the air up there. So he sealed it up with plaster, and that was that. We didn’t mind. This house was bigger than any we had lived in before, and we didn’t need the extra storage room.

For two weeks after we moved in, dad went to his new job, mom ran errands and cooked meals, and we went to school. But each morning when we’d wake to start the day, it became harder and harder to leave. The closer we got to the door, the thicker the air around us became, until it was hard to think, or move. For a while we pushed doggedly ahead, ignoring the lethargy and our increasing lack of motivation and focus.

Thus began the great forgetting. At first we forgot our lunches, our backpacks, our keys. Then, gradually, my parents for got to go to work. They forgot to get the mail, buy groceries, pay the bills. After that, my brothers nd I could barely recall our school. Its recollection seemed to dissolve at the first touch of thought, like a footprint in sand washed by a wave.

Life became disjointed, unintelligible, without rhyme or reason. Occasionally I would come to with a start, with the feeling that something was very, very wrong, and we needed to leave. I would try to rally everyone else, but it was like attempting to teach sleep walkers to surf, and I gave up shortly after any feeble attempt, due to a pervasive exhaustion which would inevitably come over me.

One day I woke to find my brother Billy on the computer game, and Carl reading his book… the same book he’d been reading for … with a start, I realized I could not remember how long we lived here. I could not remember where we lived before this. Perhaps we lived here all our lives, and never lived anywhere else? I tried, but could not picture anything that could possibly exist beyond our four walls. The idea that there was a thing called somewhere else felt absurd. This was all there was. There was no outside. As I felt my feet turn from the path to the door back into the hallway, I shook my head in bewilderment at my ridiculous musings.

Slowly, as the memories of the outside world slipped away, so did the memories of who we were. At first, we forgot our ages, but soon afterward, we forgot what we liked and didn’t like to do. We forgot our goals and dreams, we forgot our extended family and our friends, even our earliest childhood friends. Recalling past experiences became more and more arduous, exhausting, and futile. And then, at some point, we could not remember our names.

And then we ran out of food. Our hunger seemed to jolt us back into some semblance of linear time, as if suddenly waking from a dream.

Mom ran into the living room. “How many days have you been playing that computer game!!” she shouted. I looked up, interested. Days? I hadn’t heard that word in so long, I had to rack my brain for what the word meant. I turned to look at my brother. He was thin and had black circles under his eyes. He was filthy. His hair tangled and matted on his head, and his clothes looked like they hadn’t been washed in … days, indeed. Maybe weeks had passed while he endlessly played his game.

“What’s so interesting about it?” I asked, eager to break more of the silence which I now noticed had been slowly crowding out conversation from our house. I could not remember the last time we spoke to one another.

“It’s about a family who moved into a three story house. I’ve almost reached the last level of the game. The family is slowly dying, but can’t remember how to leave.”

“That’s a strange game,” I admitted uneasily. “Why can’t they leave?”

“I’m not sure. But the reason has to do with the attic.”

The thought began nagging at me that this was not your typical sort of game. “What does the house look like?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer.

My brother furrowed his brow. “Strange enough, a lot like ours. But that’s purely a coincidence. It’s not about our family. I mean the characters in the game have … names … like Billy and Carl.”

“Oh,” I replied, suddenly yawning and feeling rather listless and bored. What’s the game called?” .

“The collective,” he replied absently. Then a moment later his mood brightened. “I’ve reached the level where I can win the game,” he announced excitedly.

“Well then, how do you win the game?”

“You have to go down to the basement and make a lot of noise,” he said, as he expertly scrolled the mouse around the screen.

With growing trepidation, I listened to the surround sound speakers as they broadcast the tap of his character’s footsteps down the basement stairs, the hurried feet of the other children running down behind him, and the stomp, stomp, stomp of their feet on the basement floor.

“You need to get up and do something else!” scolded mom, who was standing a few feet from me.

Somehow, my brother obeyed. I heard the sound of the computer shutting down the game and the speakers. But the stomping continued, several floors below.

The Effects of Imperialism

They cry endless tears
They make calendars of sorrows
Things are too strong, too great, too hard, too frail, too big, too small
No one remembers where they’ve put the inbetweens

They long, afraid to put a name to the feeling
Old songs whispered throughout the day,
No longer able to sing in their own language,
The people don’t know who they are.

And they laugh about how loud everything is,
Especially they’re voices.
Ice on glass, the embrace of friends:
Wouldn’t you yell if you weren’t being heard?

People wear a kind of stupor like a mask
In and out of buildings, homes, children’s schools
The days go by without notice.

Complacency is the worst sedative
For it makes the strong forget they are wounded
And no one recalls how to get up.

They don’t live in deserts
But it’s easy for minds to go barren and raw.
Red sands hide the scars of war well,
The red rocks of memory could have been monuments

But everything is too stark, too set in stone.
Identities formed through struggle
Wrap like mistletoe,
Draining life out of the oaken heartwood at the center.

Strings cross yards to hold the weight of clothes,
Strings cross wooden frames, waiting to be played,
Strings attach to every letter of every word
That could spell a way out.

They walk on stranded ground,
Along the edge that’s split three ways:
Land and sea and sky,
Not sure why everything is spilling over.

If only they could follow the threads of what is left
Through the maze that nobody remembers starting
To the place where who they are lies in roots and trees
Where the land shapes them, and they no longer shape the land,
Where signatures could be torn from the tarnished pages of history,

Be replaced with their own.

They wonder why, they wonder why,
The reason is written on their faces
But mirrors have been outlawed here.

Otherwise the problem and solution
Would look back at one another
On the surface of a pool,

And somebody would have to dive in
And bring up what lies beneath
The surfaces that seem so smoothed over.

What kinds of unknown things
Would you not understand and yet recognize
Or would you not recognize a self
Formed from the clay of your own belonging
No longer handed to you?

Figures that stood for something immense and grave
Serve the purposes of a country that’s lost it’s origins
And those that profit from that
Do not own the stories they tell.

People argue about who is right,
They argue about who is wrong,
They argue about arguing.
They argue to hear themselves talk,

They argue about who has given them they’re names,
And who has disowned them.
There are as many streams of water as there are streams of people,
Neither is quite sure where to go
Just sure that they are going.

Things don’t just change, they exchange:
Songs for silence,
Mirrors for security.

This silent security,
It stalks the land like some wild animal.
People created it, it waits for the day it will capture everyone’s heart.

We are not the silence or the struggle,
Or the ferocity of wild cats,
Or the shards of broken dreams.

We are not the ancient songs or the lost children.
We are not yesterday’s mistakes or today’s forgetting.
We are not what you told us we were.

Piece by piece, we rebuild what reflects us
Greater than all we previously dreamed,
Louder than the keening of a fractured past,
Our cries are the sounds of what is to come.