20 Lines A Day

A Community of Writers and Photographers


Miss

This was the sweet spot. Late afternoon, when the sun slanted her golden light across the land and made everything suddenly more beautiful and vibrant with color. Today blades of late summer hay glowed like they were rays of the sun, too.

Joe never missed afternoon light.

She held her position, crouched among the hay, heels digging into the soft earth. Camera ready. A butterfly was perched on one blade, its black wings specked with cornflower blue. Joe’s heart raced just a little faster, excited to catch the shot. Breathing quietly, she watched the butterfly flutter her wings. She slowed time and pushed down on the shutter.

And the neighbor’s six-year old son squealed from across the field. Joe’s focus buckled and she looked in the direction of the house. When she looked back, her butterfly was gone. Joe cursed under her breath. She cursed when her father sold that plot of land to city folk, and cursed again when they built a three-story summer home on it. A place to get away from the city, they said, cultured voices dripping with pretension. Joe hated city folk.

Maybe I still got the shot, she assured herself.


Summer Lilies

They say deer eat these mine are all still healthy

Summers lilies of pumpkin gold

waving softly in the wind

The black seeds perched

precariously at the center of every leaf.

 

I wonder-which wisp of wind

will scatter seeds and where will they land?

Will they hang on drying slowly

until fall finally wilts the plant?

 

The fuzzy stamens, tempting new life-

why do the seeds form down the branch,

when the stamens and ovulates

rest within the velvety soft flower?

 

Each tiny gift nature has given

develops its own ways,

keeps its mystical secrets,

reminds us that every living thing.

 

is special, unique, magical.

Look at a daisy, a lily, a daffodil,

every one with its own way to reproduce,

Life itself holds infinite recipes.

 

Every flower shares it beauty,

to observe and enjoy is a gift

free and simple, there for the taking.

The finest things in life ARE free!

 


Voices

Cockroach Wells loved to dig graves. We often said that he was always ahead of schedule.

Sometimes he brought a flashlight into the graveyard and Mrs. LaRoque would watch the dim light from her living room window across the street and call the police. He had no business messing around in the graveyard, disturbing the dead’s peace, she’d say. And the officers would come and Cockroach would put up a terrible fight and he’d spend the night in jail.

Cockroach was an odd looking fellow – he had a messy black beard that was always littered with crumbs, a slump to his shoulders and a little march to his walk, like someone had him on strings. And always mumbling – perhaps talking to the voices in his head.

One moonless night my friend and I snuck out of our beds on a dare to test our bravery in the graveyard. We crept along the stones – the names and dates on some of them worn clear off, others marking deaths 200 years old – giggling in whispers, carrying our own flashlights and hoping Mrs. LaRoque didn’t notice and call the police again.

And then we ran into Cockroach – he’d turned his flashlight off and sat in the blackness, Indian-style in front of one particularly old and moss-covered tombstone, chatting away.

“That must’ve been just awful,” he was saying. “Were you injured?” Cockroach stopped as if hearing a reply. “And that dun you in, eh? That’s a shame.”

He sensed the two 11-year-old boys watching and turned around. When he smiled, his mouth opened onto toothless gums – a wet cave above the bristling beard.

“This here feller just tellin‘ me bout his days in the Civil War,” he told them, motioning to the grave to introduce the dead soldier.

We just nodded and kept on walking – Cockroach didn’t seem to need our company. As we hustled between the stones, we could hear his low grumble of a voice continue his one-sided conversation. Who am I to say no one spoke back?


1 Comment

Clinging to a Life I Once Knew

Across the room, a picture of the two of you,
Its seems like yesterday, but its been 8 years,
in the purest hell. You- taken only four months later.
Your little brother now 6’3” and growing-
the girl who has his heart isn’t me.
I am alone in my heart-I’ve taken in my sick dad-
and the daily reminders of why I left home at 18
haunting my every quiet move, with doors down,
curtains up to accommodate walkers-hospital supplies.
Every time I think “life” can get no worse, it does.
I need you, I need your brother to be little again.
I want to teach 6 kids about bugs and butterflies
and play in the creek. I want to live, love, dream.
Tonight, if and when I close my eyes, please,
my beautiful young man, stolen for no reason,
come to me, be with me, let me remember life.


Hunt

Anna froze when the siren wailed. It cut through the humid morning slowly, as if impeded by the thick air – bounced off the palm trees, the thick vegetation beneath her bare feet, into the heavy cobalt sky above and then over the calm sea. Anna couldn’t see it, but could hear the waves crashing against the shore. That was, until the siren started.

She grasped Leo’s arm – it was damp with sweat. “What is that?”she asked. Leo looked down at her, his glimmering face cast in a shroud – he was scared, but not frantic. That was good. But he paused as if wanting to keep a horrible secret from her, one he wished he didn’t know himself.

He put a strong arm over her shoulders and Anna huddled under his protection, but still wanted her question answered.

“What is it?” she repeated. Her voice cracked.

He peered through the trees, trying to find a sign of movement in the shadows between their long trunks. The tension in Leo’s muscles troubled her and she tensed out of instinct.

“The Call,” he said.

“Call for what?”

Something moved several feet to their left and Leo whipped his head towards the sound.

“The Hunt has begun,” he whispered.

Before Anna could ask another question, Leo grasped her shoulders and pushed her down the path, away from the noise.

“We need to run,” he said. “NOW!”

As they sprinted down the path, over roots and rocks, between palm trees and ferns, Anna heard the leaves part where they had been standing. Something growled at her heels but she didn’t dare look back.


Eruption

Three weeks have passed and we’ve spent every minute of it in this small little room. Four days ago, the rain stopped. It only sounded like rain, but I couldn’t forget what it really was. Ash.

“Can we try the door, please?” My sister has been begging my father for days. It’s hot and she can’t breathe and she’s complained about it over and over. None of us can breathe, all of us are sweating – she isn’t the only one. But I bite my tongue. Father patiently tells her no each time and recites the reason, which my sister already knows.

“We need to make sure the eruption is over. We don’t want to leave too early, or we might not be able to get back in.” And that’s it. Though he doesn’t tell her to drop it – maybe he should – but his tone indicates the topic is closed.

She settles back into her discomfort. All of us try to keep our sanity contained in our skulls, but every day it threatens to spill over, like water in a glass. We wait.

“It’s time,” my father says one morning,. It could’ve been another week, but it hardly feels like a minute – time has become warped and twisted, my mind losing all concept of it. “Gather want you want to bring. I’m going to open the door in 10 minutes.”

Hardly enough warning, I think, but I’m glad to be doing something even if it’s terrifying. I don’t want to see what’s beyond our shelter, what has happened to the world. I stand behind my sister, holding her shoulders so that she rests against my stomach. My mother keeps close behind my father, whose sweaty hands grasp the handle of the door so tightly every muscle in his forearm ripples.

“Ready?” he asked.


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Experiment

The dream was always the same. Two men wore masks over their faces and a bright light floated behind them. They spoke to her softly. The dream remained with her even when she went home, its residue ruining her focus. Her breakfast, a visit from a friend, her mother’s voice, all disappeared in its wake.

“What’s wrong with you this morning?” her mother chided one day. She couldn’t appear vacant or distracted or they’d take her back. It was an unfriendly place, full of crazy people. But she wasn’t crazy, just a little lost.

“I’m fine.”

She told herself the dream wasn’t real. She took her medicine and her mother checked under her tongue. It’s just a dream. But no – the room was familiar and she remembered something, something they did to her. Eyes loomed over paper masks; kind voices; her feet in stirrups.

I’m not crazy – I was never crazy. Maybe confused. But not this time.

She gripped her belly – it was growing rounder. She felt the life inside. But no one would believe her story – no one ever believed her. She was just a crazy girl.


Beckon

The wood floor groaned beneath her feet, the lantern hot in her hand. Her breath was tight inside her chest. Up ahead-a faint creak. A cold sweat sprouted on her skin; her head swam. He knew she was coming, creeping down the hall. Another step. Two. She raised the lantern but its thin yellow beam only stretched so far. He was behind that door – she could feel it.

“What am I doing?” she recited in her mind, over and over again. “Because you need to see him,” another voice responded.

Yes, she did. She’d seen him in her dreams every night. She could smell his breath as he taunted her with cold whispers. And then the squeeze on her shoulder. His words beckoned her – “come to me…”

It couldn’t be real, it wasn’t possible. He was dead. But he wanted her in their old bedroom. She was almost there now. Her nightgown fluttered in a cold draft, her feet silent. The door opened. She stopped – she didn’t want to see him after all. But the door widened even more, revealing only shadow and cold beyond. The abyss lured her forward.

She raised the lantern again, but its light was halted by a wall of shadow. “Come to me…” he whispered. She passed the threshold. And there he stood, as real as he’d been alive, if not for his transparent glow. The darkness swallowed her as she passed through his arms.


Love Lost and Stolen

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Though I am not aware of any great love

 beaming down upon me, I hope they are there

My lost son, my mother , her parents,

They speak to me, hear me when no one else does.

I have searched, believed, dreamed, loved

and seen all of that stolen from me.

In misery, drowning in tears, I have lain,

thinking of you, longing for your touch.

Oh, Holy Spirit, one whom I should trust

I often wonder where you are, near, or far

Do you watch over me while I suffer?

Do you not interject yourself in earths troubles?

There was a time when the majesty of your works,

the beauty of the forest and flowers of spring,

carried me to a place of pure delight.

Now, all I do is wonder what I did to make you leave.

Nothing can bring back what was stolen from me.

I try to find comfort in the winds, the sea,

To find you again, but I cannot see beyond the clouds.

I reach up, longingly to find only emptiness.

All you must do is reach down as I reach up,

as you did once and suddenly withdrew.

I hear the winds power, the majestic clouds.

But i want you, and can never ever have you here again.


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A Stormy Night With You

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As I listen to the rain spattering against my cabin’s window,
I think of that night when we were stranded here.
The roads were washed out and the creek overflowing,
but I was in your arms , safe, warm, a long-awaited dream.

I saw the lights blink on the alarm clock, the bang on the transmitter.
I smiled, we were alone, you and I , no one would check on us.
I tugged on grandma’s quilt and you tugged back-asleep.
I listened to the sweet sound of your breath, soft, even.

When I awoke, stars glimmered in the window, the clock was flashing.
Darkness still surrounded me, along with your strong, hard arms.
I wanted this night to last forever, the moon seemed satisfied with just a peek at us.
You and I, finally in a place where life brought a freshness-alone, together.


There is a place

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There is a place in my heart, somewhere, I am sure-
where I can still feel, still love, still care.

My world is so empty, unfulfilling, sorrowful,
I cannot remember joy, peace, wanting to wake up.

I search for my little children, the son I lost,
Those who grew up and moved on without me.

I search for a love I tried so hard to believe in,
and never spent a night without a doubt or fear.

Surely, there is a place where my mother, my son,
my life still exists, waits for me as I wait alone.

I look, I try, but the lies, the lack of caring shouts.
Around me, it is like life laughing in my face.

I am your wife, I am your mother, I am your daughter,
You cannot change that any more than I can change you.

There is a place where I will get what I have toiled for
my entire life. That I have suffered and begged for.

When I get there, some of you may be there, and then,
some of you will not. Then, finally, I will have peace.

My world is so empty, unfulfilling, sorrowful,
I cannot remember joy, peace, wanting to wake up.

I search for my little children, the son I lost,
Those who grew up and moved on without me.

I search for a love I tried so hard to believe in,
and never spent a night without a doubt or fear.

Surely, there is a place where my mother, my son,
my life still exists, waits for me as I wait alone.

I look, I try, but the lies, the lack of caring shouts.
Around me, it is like life laughing in my face.

I am your wife, I am your mother, I am your daughter,
You cannot change that any more than I can change you.

There is a place where I will get what I have toiled for
my entire life. That I have suffered and begged for.

When I get there, some of you may be there, and then,
some of you will not. Then, finally, I will have peace.


1 Comment

Thirty-Nine

Today I turn 39.  My last year in my 30’s.  If I had my nearly 4 decades to do over, I’d stay home with my kids, which is a total contradiction because I hated staying at home when they were very young.  Now I’d do it all over again and for longer, just for more time with them.  I’d go to graduate school the first time I had the chance.  I’d go back to that first relationship in high school, and I’d say no to that boy.  Yes, it would change the course of my life, but I’d avoid the pain of losing a friend.  I’d make and keep better connections with friends of my parents and my extended family.  I had no idea how much I would wish I knew them better as I got older.   I’d demand more of myself.  The status quo and self pity would never be in my coping toolbox.  I’d learn about self care early on and make it a priority.  I’d stop myself from picking up terrible interpersonal habits that negatively affect my relationships.  My poor husband really has to deal with a lot of baggage.  I’d let people get close to me, I’d be more vulnerable.  And I’d expect it of other people too.  I’d take back every mean word I ever said to my sister.  Maybe we were just kids, but I’m sure it affected her, and she’s the only sibling I have.  I’d set better boundaries for myself, and I wouldn’t be afraid to say no.  I wouldn’t find a sick comfort in relationships that make me feel bad.  I’d talk to my mom about her illness, I’d share my fears about living a life without her.  I’d snuggle up next to her that night when she asked me to.   I’d understand that in order to feel great joy and compassion, you also, at times, have to allow yourself to feel great pain.  I’d never stop writing.  Or dancing.  Or letting the world know how smart I am.  Or crying.  I’d cry a LOT more.  And I’d pray more.  I’d figure out early what makes me passionate and pursue that.  Or not stop pursuing that.  I’d have a job that I love, that fulfills me, that I can’t wait to get up and do every morning.  I’d force my foot into that Cinderella slipper and never let it fall off my foot.

“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

~Henry David Thoreau

Happy 39.  It’s going to be a great year.

©SpiritLed 2014


3 Comments

UNTITLED

Pre-note: I apologise  for how long this is… but I do need your help. I would be really glad if I got title suggestions for this poem. It was written by my boyfriend a while back, and we only recently decided to publish his collection with his permission. I believe it only proper that we appendage the name of whomever’s title sounds as a right fit for the poem along-side it in the publication. Thanks in advance… and for taking the time to read.

Wind. Mind and illusion.

Three words of freedom and dream. Dream.

Dream and ambition.

Two words of bravery, audacity and ego.

Ego.

That which labels not two words or three, or four,

But one.

Neither dream nor ambition, neither mind nor illusion,

Four words of placid bewilderment.

Of deep thought and belief, of conviction and denial,

Antonyms and metaphors. Hypothetical self-esteem,

Purely primordial imagination, prayers and chants to invisible airs,

Wind.

Inferior noises to the blue skies of day, and black skies at twilight,

Dream.

Compounded sequences of disturbed segments of notion,

In reposed action, flowery paradises of the future.

Ironies of reality, desperate desire and inception,

Four words of critic and mockery,

Reality.

Extinct possibilities, like as melting glaciers in the winters,

Simmers of boiling emotion, freezing the ice,

Breaking the skies and pouring evils upon earth.

Desire. Desperate desire,

Needs of the soul, penumbral wishes of the body,

Vain. Dark and vain, aimless as the clouds,

Trailing the wind and erasing the silver lining,

Inception.

Foundations. The origins of the genesis, the irony,

And absolute misery of rains under the sun,

Illusion. The fantasy of a wet sun, melting the clouds to create the rain,

Chimeras that the eyes can feel and the skin can see,

Figments of daydream, visions of fragmented stars,

Is it the blue in the oceans, or the skies?

Is it the green in the park, or the illusion of the mind’s eye?

Mind.

Clockwork and timeless manufacture of fabrications,

Beauty inexistent, a whole new world.

That which is created in the mind, is that which is not

The action offered in the physical.

The real world.

Ego. Is all it is?

Decharacterised delusion of self,

Constructed being, that which we may not be- wind.

Airs that shred the summer leaves, that burn the rains,

Black skins in white coating, silver with a clouded lining,

Persons that we are not ready to be,

That is who we are. Non-realities.

Simulated mockeries of God’s image,

Wind. Mind and illusion.

Our minds, caught in wild illusions carried swiftly by the winds,

Carried away to a distant place in these dreams.

Utopia.


2 Comments

Withered Hands

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She slowly got up from the ragged green chair,

hobbling to the kitchen, stirring something

as it boiled and rumbled.

The aroma reminded me of my grandma’s house,

long ago, me, a curly-haired child,

being chased away lest I get burnt.

A little girl sat playing on the floor,

a home-made rag doll, much-loved, it appeared.

The lady spoke to the child in a language

where I would not ever find proficiency-

yet I knew exactly what her words were.

In every place, every time, we are all one.


2 Comments

It’s infectious (Prose)

It’s infectious
those
with troubled pasts
who
can’t explain or talk it out
the need to expel demons
carried on backs, or those that are
buried deep within hearts
It’s infectious
the mountain is there
that needs to be climbed
a pillow that’s held tight to a chest
a drink that is swallowed, they try to forget
abandoning yesterday’s in place of tomorrow’s
casting aside pain, forgetting past sorrow
It’s infectious
the need to jump fences
run free through the fields
survive what has happened, the need to feel real
to unlock the doors, to open their minds
regain their confidence, leaving darkness behind
words are around you, the answers in sight
write out your feelings…please just write
©jmtacken Feb 2014
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