I used the poetic form of a Villanelle for the above poem. This is my first attempt as this was new, to me. Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” is a prime example of this poetic style. It is a 19 line poem with 5 Tercets (3 lines) that follow an ABA rhyme pattern, and one Quatrain (4 lines) to end the poem. Its rhyme pattern is ABAA. The last two lines of the Quatrain are the Refrain (which I crafted first) and they are used in the 2nd to 5th Tercet, intermittently. Thomas use of the 10 syllables per line harks to Elizabethan/Shakespearian Sonnets.
This was a bit challenging at first. I’m glad I tried it. I’ll probably do more, as I did with Sonnets over the years.
My name is John Meadows, at least, that’s what it says on my birth certificate. At this moment, I’m not sure if that is even true.
I woke up in a bedroom. It was an unknown space. Except, as I lifted my head up off the pillow, I noticed a picture that looked familiar. I stood, walked over to it: it was flush with the wall. An outdoor moment in time. There was a man, and a woman. They held each other, big smiles on their faces.
The man leaned on a vast gnarled tree. Instead of branches, It looked as if seven tree trunks wound around each other, an abstract weave of latticework wood. The leaves were thick, a dark shade of green that looked almost like they were black. They hung over the couple like a frame.
The woman had her head resting on the man’s shoulder. His hair fell to his collar, so dark that at first, I thought it looked like it was cut out of the photo. Her hair was lighter, a mixture of golden brown and red. I remembered that it was called Auburn. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that at first. Yes, Auburn-haired, long, it fell down and over his chest, making his torso look like it disappeared as well.
The photo bothered me. Her eyes sparkled when the shot was taken. His eyes held little to no reflection. I looked. His didn’t, even with the sunlight spotlighting where they stood. Her eyes, the tilt of her head, her smile: there was life. He smiled, but it didn’t seem to reach his eyes. They were flat.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a free-standing full-body mirror to my left. It stood at a tilt near white folding slat doors. I shuffled my way over to it. I could not remember what I looked like, nor who I was. Maybe, I thought, looking at the reflection, things would come into focus. My heart began to accelerate, chest tightening, and it was getting difficult to breathe. I hadn’t been aware of breathing before this. I was now.
Coming into full view, I felt my head had received something smashing into it. It hurt like hell. I had to touch my head. It felt like bone shattered. I checked. It felt solid. But the pain. It was like a steel bar was slammed against my forehead.
A steel bar? Why did I…no, more a bat? Baseball? No, no. A baseball. Yes, a baseball hurtling to me, not even registering that I needed to move, to duck, do something. But it was too fast. I was too slow. I was up, then nothing. It felt just like that, although I didn’t know why. I still don’t know why I felt that way when I stepped in front of the mirror.
Yes, I was the man in that photo, even though I did not remember that. It was clear upon viewing, my eyesight was waving, no floaters, no film distortion over the irises. I looked at myself in the mirror, then over to the photo. Goosebumps paraded across my spine.
Turning, I took in the rest of the room. White minimalism in paint and fabrics. Same with my pajama pants. I noticed, then, that I had no shirt on. A look in the mirror traveled down; before, I was solely intent only on my face. My chest was hairy but not matted. Three parallel deep pink scars ran from my left armpit to just past the bellybutton. An inny. They didn’t hurt as much as throb. Noticing them did not help my rapid breathing and heart rate.
The next moments are still a blur. I know I looked around: the place had been tidy when I awoke. Now, drawers, men’s clothing, papers littered the white. All the bed linen was on the floor. The sliding slat doors were open wide, showing a closet that was only half full. I took this all in, sitting on the floor, leaning against the bed. I felt something hard and looked down. I had a metal lockbox in my hands. My breathing shallowed, and I felt myself calm down to regular human beats. At least, what I thought were normal.
There was no lock to have to break into. The lid swung up with ease, showing the mound of papers it carried. I riffled through the envelopes, unfolded the various papers, and only stopped when I found a Birth Certificate. Mine, I have assumed, until someone tells me differently.
My name is John Meadows.
If you are listening to this tape, then most likely I am dead. Or too far away for any meaning of living or dead is inconsequential. This is the story of what happened from that moment of waking, clueless to everything that had meaning to me. I know that the woman in the photo was Jean, my partner. I know she no longer…is here. Where? At this time, I still do not know how to answer that.
Whoever you are, whenever you are, do yourself and loved ones a favor.
Do not stand under the leaves of that massive, gnarled tree.
Joining the unremembered in their weather passage.
The egregious screws are welded holdfast
As we sing songs of Joy and Peace
Nevertheless the vagaries of weather;
Nonetheless what clasps us to those songs.
Opposite actions enforced.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
“Songs of joy and peace” come from Joni Mitchel’s beautiful song, River. I had listened to it only minutes before when I shut off my music app and tuned into that night’s writing group, River River Writer’s Circle. The prompt was “When the weather changes.” The above happened, was shared, and got the suggestion: “Think about expanding this out” (well, “stretching it out”). So, I let it sit, came back to it, and the above is the result.
Thank you, Ms. Mitchel. A sad, but integral song for many. What I wrote is no reflection on her song. The fourth line of the first stanza stayed with me.
The four others who had ascended with her ran to the edge of the outcropping. At first, I thought they would all follow her as a group, a splice of Lemmings following the herd. They did run helter-skelter after, yet they all stopped abruptly at the edge. Parts of The Trolls Tongue ledge were disturbed by their mad dash forward. Broken off pieces of rock following in her stead as they laughed and high fived each other.
Two went prone, cellphones at hand, in what I assumed was to record the woman’s rapid descent. The other two had packs already on their backs, each checking the other.
I noticed all of their movements for a brief moment: a fraction, really. I took them in more out of the corner of my eye. I lost total interest as I watched the jumper descend.
She was swimming through the air. The flips were followed by a turn to the west. Then east. A series of air pocket climbs allowed her to somersault, pushing her up on the currents. The spirals she performed were breathtaking. Her control was magnificent. The whining pitch of her aerials signaled her falling speed increase.
Spreading her body out, she pulled something. I could see the movement, but she was too far away, even for me, to see clearly.
The pack upon her back burst open. A snarl of colors leaped out and up. As it unfurled, I muttered an involuntary “ah” as I understood. A parachute. Multi-colored as it snapped into shape, drawing her once more upwards. The four yelled, laughed, and hooted at this point. I didn’t turn to look. It was enough to hear them squawk akin to Snowy Owls.
I imagined her laughing along as she heavily floated to the Fjord below. Her heart beating fiercely, blood coursing through her body at high speed. I envied her, that joy, that freedom, that overtaking of fear. Sensations that I have been divorced from for far too long.
A new shout from the four sought my attention and grabbed it. Only the two lying prone were still there. The others were off, doing their “death-defying” acrobats. I watched it for only a moment. Individually, they were nowhere near as graceful as their friend was. They made up for it a bit, and they maneuvered around and with each other. It wasn’t enough. I lost interest in the last hooting I heard from them.
I’d been alone on The Tongue for an eternity. Initially, I climbed this peak after the deaths of my family, trying to escape their death howls. They were silenced in turn as I fled. Ashamed, I traveled on. Climbing, ever climbing. When I first beheld this outcropping, my turmoil of thoughts leveled out. The gods were with me. An excellent place to die, I thought and felt. I had been alone for so long. It was good at that point to die alone.
Yet, when I reached the edge of the outcropping, ready to cross that flimsy border of safety, I found I was unable to move any closer. The dizzying height, the frigid air, the snow that had followed me as I trod on. Frozen in heart and mind, I was buffeted in indecision that lasted through the freezing night.
Just as the morning sun began its rise, my knees and lower legs wobbled. I grew unsteady, leaning precariously in the direction I needed to go. Wanted so desperately to go. A strong upwind slapped me in the face, sending me back instead of forwards.
I sprawled on the outcrop through the light of the day. Movement was beyond me. I tried, failing every attempt. As the day dwindled away, I let the darkness envelop me in whole. All the pride I still had fled, my resolve punctured. Emotions were stripped away in one swoop. I was unmade.
The night sky was brilliant when I finally opened my eyes anew.
“I am not worthy of joining you. I see that now. I can wait. I can still remember.”
Hunger growls drew me out of the remembrance. Loud, but not loud enough to rouse the two left behind. My steps towards them were but feathers.
Upon The Trolls Tongue, I feasted well.
May those who come searching for them travel with speed.
Julie and Steve
In teenage lust angst
Lantern lit, hidden nook
Atrocities attacked ere consummation
Sending them heedlessly running along
On Old Blackwash Road
Julie was screaming
Until her voice decayed
Steve pulled ahead
No thought of her pumping away
Julie tried to catch up
Down Old Blackwash Road
If words could take aim
Steve would have heard her pleas
Curses tossed through him
Voiceless, running still
Left alone under moonlight
Fever pitch dashing on Old Blackwash Road
Steve's mind was blanker
Except for grinding terror
Pushing himself faster on
It was primal, fierce
As his lungs began to seize
Slowing on Old Blackwash Road
Julie haven found above
Crawling up an ancient oak
She saw Steve plunge to the ground
Closed her eyes ridigidly shut
Prayed, then dug her nails into the wood
Surrounding Old Blackwash Road
Steve's wails turned raw
Before they abruptly terminated
Julie clung for more than her worth
Tree sap glued her to her spot
Unaware of it till morning light
Dawn awakening Old Blackwash Road
Time moved through Julie
Frozen to the spot
Heat of the day came fiercely
Freeing her from tree secretion
Setting her down upon
Empty Old Blackwash Road
She fled the scene half naked
The ground was bare of Steve
Her throat hurt as she sobbed aloud
No tears were left inside her
As she stumbled upon Route 40
Connected to Old Blackwash Road
Julie withdrew and hid inside
While the Sheriff did his best
Steve was never found, even a tiny bit
"It's happened before," they all knew for true
Julie shrugged. What could she say or do
About Old Blackwash Road?