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About a Wallflower

poems

Bear and Rabbit

 

rabbitbearbear found rabbit crouching at the roots of a tree.

she was a tiny creature – not even a proper mouthful, all fluff and reedy bones,

but bear had just awoken from the deep sleep of winter and was hungry.

being a fair and gentle soul, he allowed his prey a moment to collect her wits and dash into the brush,

yet rabbit could only tremble, tremble and stare with her liquid eyes – eyes that held him there.

something in those innocent orbs reminded him of his darkest hurting, his helpless days, of old fish bones and oozing cuts,

and he found he could not kill her.

a fatherly protectiveness stirred in his chest, and he heard himself say, “climb on my back, child.”

and rabbit saw that there was kindness in this beast, so she obeyed.

in a matter of months, rabbit grew from a puny creature to a sleek and powerful young animal.

bear loved her as only a father can love, faults and all… and rabbit had many faults.

she soon forgot about her vulnerable beginnings and took her meals without a “thank you.”

she left messes in the cave and had more faith in the strength of her hind legs than she did in her father’s words of wisdom.

“daughter, do I really mean so little to you?” bear would say.

and rabbit would say she loved him, and she did, truly,

but he could never understand the aching in her legs, the longing to scamper, farther and father each time.

bear watched her when she thought she was alone.

he watched her when she sat at the mouth of the cave, staring into the dying sun.

she was discontent. she was frustrated and a little broken. bear saw all of this.

sometimes a tear of bewilderment would slip down his great face, but rabbit was blind to his grief.

one night, rabbit slipped from her place under bear’s paw and made her way into the moonlight.

somehow the forest seemed bigger in the dark.

strange golden eyes leered at her from above,

and the air was heavy and full of the sounds of the night,

curious clucks and chirps.

but rabbit was young and foolish and, at the moment, felt devilishly bold.

if danger struck, she could make it back into the cave in time, of that she was certain.

she began to run, kicking up leaves and earth, relishing the feel of the dirt beneath her claws.

she was a wild thing, fierce and independent.

if only bear could see –

and then a winged thing swooped down over her, blocking the light of the moon, screeching as it descended.

what was it? what was it? which way to the cave? this would be her end.

but now there sounded a mighty and familiar roar,

and she was cast into deeper darkness, bathed in the shadow of her father.

the roar became a bellow of pain as talons tore down his back.

rabbit screamed with him, and then fell on her side, limp and exhausted,

shuddering with sobs.

“I have taken your punishment for you because I love you. I would die for you, do you know that? you are foolish and chase after pain, but I hope now you will listen to me and accept my teachings.”

rabbit’s sobs ebbed and she returned to the cave wiser, and with a deep peace in her heart.

so this was true freedom.

this was love.

this was better than what she had wanted for herself.

Stepping Off the Plane

when I was very young,

I used to lay awake

and watch the cracks on my ceiling,

trying to puzzle out what it must feel like

to step off a plane and onto foreign soil for the first time.

I imagined that, upon landing, a traveler would instantly recognize a change

within himself,

some deeply mysterious stirring in his soul,

and he would know he wasn’t in Kansas anymore—

but really,

nothing is ever the way you dreamed it

when you were eight,

harsh as that reality is.

 

 

 

 

To My Cousin

andagain

it isn’t your birthday.

no, today doesn’t mark any important date,

but even so,

I want you to know how grateful I am for what we have.

there’s an understanding that runs thicker than the blood we share—

memories that bind us together.

when Gran gave away her silk nightgowns,

it felt like goodbye,

so I left the yellow garage lights and walked off, overwhelmed, to cry in the sweet-smelling blackness of Kentucky night.

later, you told me you knew I was crying,

but that I did a good job of hiding it.

it’s little things like that that make us who we are.

so thank you,

truly.

 

 

 

 

 

Raw

I once made the mistake of sharing a precious melody

with someone who could never understand it,

and oh, I was miserable, for the song had become a part of me,

and I had cut it from my flesh

and given it away

before it even had time to cool.

but the fool was deaf, deaf,

and now I was naked and bleeding,

on display in the crude white light.

I am not so trusting now.

Jo

jomarchJosephine March, playwright and sister to three:

all flyaway hair

and skirt torn from climbing a tree.

now pouring over a book well-worn,

now biting back hateful words,

now romping with Laurie in the new snow,

now smoothing Beth’s fever-damp curls.

dear Jo, never stop trying

and do please continue your writing—

you’re everything I mean to be.

 

Thank You, Germany

germanybecause you opened my eyes to a thousand possibilities,

because for once in my life I was functioning—

meeting the quota yet doing things my way,

because the hot, black nights in the hostel were heaven,

and the city felt like home in the deepest sense,

because you taught me how to be “in the world and of the world,”

and because you have freed me and given me hope:

thank you.

I won’t forget.

 

Ugly On the Outside

geodes

“what does this look like—a clod of dirt, maybe?

but if you crack it open,

there’s crystals inside.

see, people are like that:

they might appear ugly or worthless,

but if you try,

you can always find something beautiful about them.

and it is so important to try.

remember that for me, OK?”

he said,

and I felt that

somehow

he was talking about himself

and I wanted to apologize for his life

even though it wasn’t my fault

and I wanted to say something about God

but God had taken everything away,

so I only nodded.

 

Open Casket

we were ushered into a musty room with a sofa and a coffee table.

none of us six knew what to do with ourselves—

with our hands or our faces,

our feelings or our lack of them.

silence hung in the air,

an uncomfortable, surprised silence

like the pause that follows after someone has spoken out of turn,

and there was, of all things, an overwhelming urge to laugh—

but then the French doors swung open

and a little music trickled out,

reminding us that in the room down the hall was the corpse of a woman we were supposed to love.

silence . . . this time a firm one.

suddenly

(and to the great appreciation of all)

Uncle Jon cracked a joke about his shoes that squeaked,

and we all snuck tiny, guilty smiles at each other because

in the end we were still ourselves,

still the cul-de-sac six,

and we understood each other better than anyone else ever could.

and this?

this was just another adventure,

a terrible, necessary adventure:

and when the time came to look at the body,

we would do it,

emboldened by mutual love—

cousins standing shoulder-to-shoulder.

 

 

Seedling

hereee

sometimes I regret not having been born simple.

to have begun as a seed, planted in the rich folds of the earth,

and to have eventually grown into a shoot, tender and promising.

there in the ground, my roots

wispy

thirsting

would follow the hoots of the worms down, down

into dark lands where they could broaden and toughen under the watchful eye of nobody.

I would not have the burden of a brain or eyes,

would not have to fight to accept things,

would not have to grasp onto tiresome ideas,

would not have questions.

I would not have a heart and so could never be disappointed in any living thing.

blind

deaf

and mute, I could only thoughtlessly pursue the things I needed,

no matter if that meant taking more than my fair share

or stifling the flimsy sprouts that got in my way.

obtain, obtain, obtain!

and I would worship God simply by existing.

it would take no effort from my part;

my existence would glorify,

and He would smile down on me,

and it would be enough.

but I have a need,

as I have a need for water and for sleep,

to create.

I have a need to capture the terribly beautiful and the terribly ugly and make it my own.

it’s my identity.

without this throbbing passion, I do not recognize myself,

am not myself.

and so, I struggle onward,

I continue loving people and hurting them too,

I make promises I don’t intend to keep,

I pray.

because this is the life I was given,

and it’s beautiful.

I know that.

but sometimes it takes a poem to remember.

 

 

 

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