Get Along

You wonder if you’re worse for wear
when days are spent in grief
sunlight frozen like cold crystal
nothing brings relief

The night is long, the dew is cold
seems morning never comes
the crickets stop and silence reigns
hours before dawn

Let it go, let it in
go ahead and feel
the dawn belongs to those who face the night
and wait for something real

Tonight you see forever
tonight is yours alone
I can’t say when morning comes
only that you’ll get along.

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Jungle

The old dirt path walked barefoot
blends to brick and dying grass
trees and shade to walls and lights
that eat into the night

The hum of summer’s insects
now planes glide overhead
starlight twinkling to headlights flashing
over smooth concrete

Away from green and growing things
a human jungle thrives
as many secrets in each face
as fireflies in the night.

2 Silly Reasons People Don’t Like Writing

I never understood why so many people say they don’t like writing. I grew up writing pages-long letters to my many pen-pals, short stories, poems, long stories, and loving it. I have a need to write. Writing is fun—you get to make up your very own worlds… or not, if you don’t want to. You can tell yourself stories about what’s already happened. Writing can help you make sense of your experience. It can help you remember and become aware of the ideas in your own head. Why don’t more people like writing?

     1) They’ve been taught that writing is drudgery.
If you grow up being forced to write, chances are you’ll learn to hate it pretty quickly. Take the freedom and creativity away, and you’re shackling a seagull on its maiden voyage. If you didn’t get a chance to explore writing (and reading for pleasure) on your own before being flooded with useless assignments, you really haven’t experienced what fun writing can be.

     2) They’re thinking about readers.
I’ve been developing this problem as I write more often in people’s company, allowing them to read what I’ve written. The solution: Acknowledge it and get over it. Forget the readers as you’re writing, and tell yourself a story. Imagine a campfire and wind in pine trees if that helps you. But don’t worry about readers. Just play.

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ”
-Joss Whedon

Shame

Jessica stared at her hands. They were trembling. Thunder rolled in the distance, still a few miles from Rogers Park. The bench was hard, shedding splinters to unwary visitors. The air was still.

She didn’t know how long she’d been sitting there, staring down, feet curled together, wisps of hair escaped from her ponytail and tickling her eyelashes. A branch cracked, and she looked up, green eyes wide.

“Ah, Jess!” Nana was a short lady, wild white hair waving in the wind.

“Nana,” Jessica called, half-heartedly.

“Jess,” she said, sitting down on the bench and breathing hard. She shoved one hand in her apron pocket and rested her elbow on the bench, propping up her head. “How was it?”

Jessica kicked at a pinecone, watched it wobble away down the paved pathway and out of reach.

“Ah,” Nana said, shifting towards her. The two sat in silence. First raindrops plopped to the ground—one, two, three. Gone.

“You know,” Nana said at last, “Whatever those girls did, it won’t seem so bad in the morning.”

“I can’t face them,” Jessica said softly. “Not again. Not after today.”

“Why not?”

Jessica sniffled. She opened her mouth, closed it, and took a breath. “I said I’d never do it. But they all… and now… I’m not one of them, Nana.”

A gust of wind caught Nana’s loose bun and sent long strands of hair whipping across her face. She brushed it back with one hand and stared unblinkingly at the girl. Jessica glanced at her, then back at the ground. Her legs swung back, forth, back, forth, as unsettled as the sky.

“Did you know,” Nana said slowly, “Back in middle school, I used to be one of the popular girls.”

Jessica frowned.

“I know,” Nana said, leaning forward. “Look at me now, eh? It took a few things before I said to myself, I’ve had it, I’ve had enough, I’m going my own way.”

“I tried. Honest I did, Nana.”

“I know. So did I.” Nana leaned back, but never looked away. “You’ll be all right, Jess. I’ve known a lot of kids in my day, seen ‘em grown up and head their different ways. You’re one of the ones who thinks about what she’s doing. That’s how things start to go right.”

Jessica kept watching her feet swing back and forth, back and forth. “You don’t know what I did, Nana. I… I…” She turned away, hid under locks of orange hair. “I can’t say it!”

Nana sat quietly, waiting. One lonely robin warbled in the woods behind them. Click. Click. Click. Jessica knew that sound. Nana’s knitting needles, patient and calm.

Slowly, Jessica unzipped her backpack. She reached for a small pouch, and placed it on the bench next to Nana, unable to meet her eyes. The clicking stopped.

“May I?”

Jessica nodded. She heard the metallic ring of metal against metal, knitting needle aluminum against fire tried gold.

“That is a beauty, honey.”

“Nana!”

“I think I’ve seen one like it in Fenderman’s shop on the corner.”

“It’s the same one, Nana.”

Jessica could feel Nana’s eyes on her. She glanced up, then shut her eyes tight and turned away.

“I’m horrible!” she said, hardly audible. “You’re going to say I have to return it, aren’t you? I don’t even want it! I never would have done it! If I… if I give it back, they’ll know… I can’t, Nana.”

Jessica heard the clunk of the gold going back in the drawstringed velvet, felt it placed gently in her hand.

“Really think it’ll be that hard?” Nana said.

“I can’t.”

Nana clucked, pulled out her knitting needles again.

“I… Nana?”

Nana paused, nodded.

“Go with me?”

The clicking stopped. Nana pulled herself up off the park bench and slipped her knitting into her pocket. “There’s a good girl.”

Jessica stayed where she was, holding still, almost holding her breath. She looked up into the deep brown eyes of the older lady, creased with laughlines all around. Nana’s apron pockets were bulging with various goodies and projects, as usual. Her eyes almost twinkled.

Jessica put the sack into her backpack and eased herself off the park bench. “It won’t be the same,” she said as they walked slowly down the path, crunching gravel. “I’m a thief.”

“Jess, I love you. You ain’t perfect, but good Lord gives us all a second chance and He knows we need it. You’ve got nothing to worry about. You know when you done wrong, you right it as you can, own up, and know a little more next time.”

Jess hung her head. A wave of sprinkles polka-dotted the concrete. Nana’s arm wrapped around her shoulder, squeezed her tight and held on.

Chasing Dreams

They say travel changes you. Maybe it does, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it just puts the same old you in a different light.

Some people travel to chase their dreams. Some stay put and do the same. Some are just running, and they don’t realize it for a long, long time.

Dreams aren’t for chasing. They’re for living. They’re not big nebulous things like clouds, up in the sky and floating around with rainbows and sunshine. They’re daisies you pick one at a time, in manageable little steps, to make a bouquet.

Dream chasers have the right idea, but they’re always running. Dream catchers are doers who take the small steps, building castles one brick at a time. They get where they’re going.

Stage Fright

It takes a long time
to get fear out of your veins
and put yourself out there
and be alive

For those who like hiding
and are afraid to be seen
before they get comfortable
up on stage, on their own

But once you find
that the trembling’s subsided
even just a little
you get a taste of joy

And once you’ve adapted
you don’t let go
You remember the stage
and forget the fright

When it’s your turn to speak
Your heart doesn’t jump
Your breath comes even
Your heart’s almost normal

It’ll always be
a little bit fluttery
but that’s
the thrill
of the stage.

Not Afraid Anymore

There are two ways of doing things. Continuing in your old habits because you know you like them, or continuing because you’re afraid of change. “Maybe the way things are is the best way things can be,” you tell yourself. Maybe. But it’s very rarely the case.

It takes a while to work up the courage to be truly afraid and make it through anyway. To see what’s on the other side, and realize—this is what I was afraid of? Fear of the new is a ball and chain, bars that keep you locked inside and away from what could be, what would be if you dared.

It takes time. It takes endurance and willpower. It takes a nudge, a shove, maybe more than that. And once you’re on the other side, one day you’ll realize that you’re not afraid anymore.

Not afraid. You’re out of your cave, blinking in the sunlight, maybe for the first time.