pay attention

the voice is ancient and familiar,
belonging to school days,
bouncing off the walls of the gym
like end of day announcements
from the principal,
or the bright ping
of a red, rubber four-square ball
entering your zone
when you’re looking the other way.

{Almost a quadrille. I’m counting the hyphenated words as a single word. I knowww …that’s breaking the rules a little, but it’s a poem not algebra, so I hope I’m forgiven. Inspired by a fun prompt from dVerse.}

today

what does it mean
to stand or not stand?
who decides justice, or mercy?
a sandwich lies on the plate, half-eaten,
a song half-sung,
a crime half-committed.
souls rise up from the earth,
and from small clay jars on the mantel,
even from the ocean.
pets also, and cobras,
and circus elephants who ceased
their performances
a half-century ago.
today is the day of new beginnings,
surely not of endings?

an uncommon request

She was serious as she approached the counter. Her voice was soft and low. “I need to know”, she said.  Then, hesitating a little, she asked if I could tell her about the dragon. Her eyes never met mine.

I know dragons, and I know people, but once in a while, they both surprise me.

She entered my shop during the winter slump, the week after all the tourists had gone, and the locals were at home preparing for the ill weather. She took a small flask from the shelf and filled it halfway with dragon tears from the spigot in the back.

Dragons don’t cry, making this a rare and expensive item. I watched her. I know every customer by name. She was new.

It was an uncommon request. No one cares about dragons. People think they know everything they need to know about dragons. Most of what they know is wrong, and when you try to tell them differently, they get angry. They stop listening. They walk away and never return.

“This one lived alone, as most do,” I told her. “The tears were extracted while he slept. He was suffering from allergies, which meant a runny nose, and tears.” I found her curiosity refreshing.

“Thank you,” she replied. “This will be put to good use,” she assured me.

I was silent. She continued, still staring somewhere behind my left ear, “Did this dragon have a hoard? He must have. How much were they able to take, seeing that he was sleeping?”

I was beginning to get nervous. Shop owners are sworn to secrecy. Was she a spy? Was this a test?

Something about the way she stared deeply into the space behind my head, and the way her eyes were puffed and pinkish around the edges, softened me.

“He had a hoard of books,” I said. I explained how unusual this was, and how unappreciated. Unrewarding for dragon hunters, except for the tears.

She straightened, seemed taller. I wouldn’t dare ask why she needed dragon tears, and it turns out I didn’t have to. She began describing her life. Her loves and her fears. And how the one item she was forbidden to truly enjoy as she wished was a good book.

I had heard of forbidden dancing, forbidden drinking, forbidden love, but I had never heard this in all my years.

But then, no one had heard of dragon tears either. Or a dragon that hoarded books. That was more odd than the tears themselves. Odd, and, to most, disappointing.

“These will be put to good use. I promise.” She smiled. It was barely a half-smile, but a smile nonetheless.

hidden

Magic could be defined as a sort of knowledge. It’s knowledge that is unknown. Or not understood. Or unseen. Hidden.

It also has certain connotations, both good and bad, depending on what perspective you are coming from. I’m a writer, and a Christian. As a human I find the concept of magic to be be morally neutral. It’s just is an aspect of existence in our universe. You can’t see it, or measure it, or prove it, but it’s real. However, I also believe that certain expressions and manifestations of it in this world ought to be treated with caution, and even avoided. Maybe when you see it the way I see it you’ll understand why.

A nightmare I had last night is a good illustration of this concept. At the time I woke, I had some nausea and was frightened. I recorded it immediately. This is what I wrote:

General folk wisdom recommends that you don’t draw faces, especially certain faces. If you do, it conjures evil spirits. Everyone knew this in my dreamworld. I didn’t.

There were rules too. Certain things you could not talk about. Or think.

Mother breaks one of these rules. I try to warn her, but it’s too late. A mysterious stranger appears.

A conflict ensues. She is knocked unconscious.

I must fight off the stranger alone. I manage to elude him. I hide.

The rule is: I must not think about my hiding place, or I will no longer remain hidden.

The trouble with magic is that even when you don’t know the rules, they still affect you. Life is all about these hidden rules. Some are called science. Others are called morality. True magic is not created by humans. It is discovered. Harnessed.

Gravity is a hidden rule. So is falling in love. And also unconditional love.

Just as ignorance of the rules cannot save you, knowledge of them is no guarantee of safety either.

{goals and habits} from drowning to drifting

This morning I had a dream. More like a nightmare. I was drifting in the middle of the open ocean, clinging to a small, black inner tube.

It looked like a scene from the movie The Perfect Storm, except there was no storm. The waves were like tall buildings surrounding me because that’s just how big waves are when you’re Way Out There.

I wondered which would happen first–drowning, or sharks. I didn’t see any sharks, but I knew they were there somewhere. Each time a wave towered over me, I would brace myself, suck air into my lungs and hope for the best.

I think this dream signifies how I feel about my life right now, especially as it relates to goals and habits. I had spent the prior evening making lists and planning for the upcoming year.

I’m a planner. I like to know where I’m headed, and how I’m going to get there. I’ve always liked creating to-do lists and working on goals and habits. Up until now, however, I’ve had difficulty with fully achieving my goals and developing strong, consistent habits. Every year I’ve run into resistance and ended up either compromising what I planned or abandoning it altogether. You might say that when it comes to goals and habits I’ve been kind of landlocked.

At the end of 2016, I launched myself into the great big ocean of life, with the vague hope of reaching an unknown, idyllic shore. I began 2017 choking and coughing up saltwater, and I am now ending it holding on tight, but drifting and mostly directionless. I will begin 2018 with a new home. I’ve never lived on my own before, and I know I have quite a lot of planning to do.