Blank Words

Inspired in part by the title of C.S. Lewis’ book “Till we all have faces” which I read like five years ago and remember bits and pieces of only.


When do we all have faces?

Are we best known when

We lay down, in blank verse

Our faces and the emotions behind

Or when, mind to mind connected through a story

We converse, I and you, the unknown reader

Do you see me more clearly

Than you would, seeing my face, nodding to me out of the crowd?

Do my friends know me better because they see me

Or because they hear the inflections of my voice

Laugh at my never ending horrible jokes

Hear me rant about politics, religion, poetry

Til I am red in the face?

What is it that tells who we are?

How does it begin in us, that we know someone so well

Without knowing their actions or motivations entire

And only as they touch us

And yet, they become part of us

So thoroughly grafted

That we cannot tell where we begin and they end?

That something we do for them is something done together

Though we have done the action as they observed?

That we are so united that

Disjointed and out of place

We are cast adrift without them?

And yet, it begins with such a small thing

The moment of realizing

That different as we are

We are still alike enough to understand each other.

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Empty Room

Just a poem to express myself. There’s a girl I dance with and she’s just been… Kind of impolite and hurtful and I’ve asked if I’ve done anything wrong and she just ignored me. And it hurt. Because I don’t know of anything I’ve done wrong and I can’t fix this situation. She hasn’t said anything openly cruel, but just… looks and expressions are enough, sometimes. So yeah. It sucks. Maybe she’s going through something in her life and is just taking it out on me, or maybe there’s something else going on. I don’t know, and I don’t want to rush out and say anything about her without knowing why she’s doing what she is. But it’s upsetting me and hurting me, and I really don’t know how to react.

It doesn’t help that one of my friends is gone right now and I haven’t seen my other friends much recently, and I’m going through the “yay, let’s be seventeen and angsty” thing right now.

So yeah. Any advice or just a comment of ‘hi!’ would be greatly appreciated. I love you all, God bless all of you, and enjoy the poem.


There’s an empty room, I guess.

Maybe there’s carpet.

Maybe just floor.

No cabinets. No pictures.

No books.

Blank white walls.

A lonely room. Clean.

Unused, unloved.

Sometimes, I feel like that room.

All stripped of everything.

Empty in a really painful way.

Something somebody says

Or just the way they look

And bam, insecurities I thought I’d overcome

And pain, because it hurts when someone’s like that

Not saying anything, but making you feel they hate you

And not letting you talk about it.

And inside, I get like this.

Naked room, stripped of everything

And I wonder, am I even worth anybody’s time?

There’s no real reason for it to hurt

That’s why it’s emptiness, and not a labeled type of pain

(Homesickness, grief, loss, self-hate)

Those could work, in another situation

But not right now.

I know better than to feel any of those things.

Loneliness, maybe, rawness,

Because my friends aren’t here to make it a little better

To reassure me that there are reasons why people could love me

But until then, I’m just an empty room.

But maybe

(If I hear your voice, or see you smile)

There’ll be a window in that empty room

And there, dawn comes, sparking light off the ocean

Until the walls are painted in glassy green blue waves

And somehow, an empty room is no longer empty

Because you are present there.

Random Book Annoyance

How many books am I going to have to read where a normal human teenager is transported to a fantasy land and it turns out they have a special power/position in that land/the people of that land have been waiting for them because prophecies! because honestly I’m getting a bit fed up. Like many book tropes I wouldn’t mind if it was well written. But I mean, it would have to be really well written because it’s getting old.  Like the ‘human teenager is unaware of the fantasy creatures society all around them and then gets caught up in this world and inexplicably becomes the center of the universe because there’s a prophecy about them/somebody in this world is in love with them/they’re so brave and amazing even though they never stop whining and actually freaking do something! Or the old ‘girl randomly falls in love with this inexplicable jerk who suddenly has a reason for being a jerk/falls in love with an individual who is supposed to be the good guy and yet has no character and little moral fiber/the male main character’s main characteristic is literally abs.’

Yeah. the wonderful world of modern literature!! LEt me die. Standouts of my recent modern reads (and rereads) are Chronicles of Elantra (so. good. Takes tropes and throws them on their ears.) The Box and the Dragonfly (the story is so original and just wow.) and All The Wrong Questions (I actually haven’t read A Series of Unfortunate Events. I tried the first book and haven’t gotten to the rest. Anyway, these were better in my opinion.)

In short, any book recommendations would be greatly and deeply appreciated right now.

Unoriginality

For example, poets have described

Angels and love and sunshine before

But angles and foggy gray dismal

Are neglected.

Keats wrote “Teenager Angst and Mood Swings”

And Barrett Browning wrote

“I’m In Love and Nobody Else Has Ever Been In Love Before”

And stale old copycats

Hang around the cobwebby corners

Of the Poet’s Garrett

And hang on, all over moony.

Tolkien’s readers write wordy wordy wordy endless

Pages on pages.

Montgomery’s legacy, spilled words all rainbow colored

Stain like watercolors, drifting and absorbing in wet paper.

And reading, I wonder if I’ve ever written anything original in my life.

Enough for Me

A Fourth of July themed story, because I’ve been studying American Government and it’s depressing to me how we forget how much our soldiers have really done for us.

Also, I saw my first Shakespeare play last night! It was King John, and it was so good and I’m still all excited about it.

Anyway, enjoy reading, Happy Fourth, and God Bless!


It doesn’t end as cleanly as they say, of course. The ‘final day of the war’ and when was it exactly? You stopped fighting a week before I was recalled home as well, and that was a month after the war ended. You stand stiffly, clad in full uniform, almost out of place. The harbor is full of ships coming home and commerce vessels coming out and going in with the excitement of the blockade ending. All around us, hundreds of people, maybe thousands, jostle and shout and kiss and hug and swear and scream with gladness.

“I’m sure they’ll be here soon,” I tell you.

You look across, still a little lost in the chaos of civilians after so long at war. Your smile is doubtful at first, but then it grows and grows and suddenly you grab me and hug me tight. My feet dangle inches above the ground. I stare out over the water over your shoulder and hold tightly. The tears are hot in my eyes, but I refuse to let them stain my face today.

“You’ll love them.” You say. “They’ll adore you.”

“I’ll have to love them.” You set me down, and I smile. “They’re your family, aren’t they?”

You start blushing, so I decide to turn it into a joke.

“Of course, that vouches very little for their sanity or their sense of humor, so I might decide I hate them all instead. I mean, it’s not even like I like you.”

You shove me hard. “Jerk.”

I laugh, and try hard not to turn, looking for mom and dad and the kids. They won’t be here today. I feel like my heart is a balloon, full of nothing but tiny gas particles colliding. P1 times V1 over T1—but that has nothing to do with it.

“Mom!” You yell, snatching my hand and dragging me along, out of my thoughts and into the crowd. You’re almost bouncing with excitement. It’s been months, after all. I’m muttering “excuse me” almost constantly as you pull us and shove us through the crowd towards your family. I give up on politeness and settle for trying to avoid hitting little kids with my case.

Your mother yells your name just as we pull into a little opening and you are swarmed by loving, open arms. I stand apart, the pain in my chest fracturing and multiplying along nerve ends. I smile at your siblings as you finish hugging them and move onto the next batch of them. I don’t know what to say.

I’m about ready to slip away in the crowd and get away when you grab my hand, a glow of pleasure lighting your whole face as you introduce me to your family. Your mother hugs me. She asks where my family is, and my smile wavers.

“They’re—not here today, ma’am.”

She frowns. “Why ever not? They should be here.”

I nod. “They should be. So should a lot of other people.”

I see it in her face the moment she gets it. I extricate myself from her arms. “I’d probably better get going.”

I slide into the crowd before you can stop me. I’m still not crying. I wander the streets. It just happens. I try going home on autopilot, and pull up short in front of the broken house. “Oh,” I say.

A lady in a shop across the way comes out and walks up to me. “Excuse me, are you al—oh!”

I smile at her. She’s grown up. So have I. I think I was fifteen when I left. She was a child. Now she’s a woman. “Hi, Lyn.”

“Oh, God, Em. I didn’t realize you were back today.”

She looks at me like she’s seen a ghost. She has. She’s seeing the ghost of my childhood, written in my face. On the shrapnel scars and burns on my skin, the little piece missing from the top of my left ear where a bullet just barely missed its target.

“Yeah. Just got home.”

I hear an explosion and when I’m next aware of myself I’ve thrown myself and Lyn to the ground. I’ve scraped us both up on concrete. Overhead, in the twilit air, a firework explodes. I shut my eyes and inhale shakily through my nose. “It’s the fourth of July, isn’t it?” I ask.

Lyn is surprisingly understanding as we get to our feet. She doesn’t even seem to mind that I got blood on her dress. “Yeah. Independence Day.”

“Oh. Tonight’s gonna be hell.”

Lyn doesn’t say anything about that. No reproach or blame. Simple understanding instead. “If you want to, my family’s having dinner in about an hour. We’d love to have you. And I can see you thinking it’s an imposition, but it’s not, Em. Seriously. You gave so much to keep us free. It’s the least we can do to keep you company.”

The com on my wrist buzzes as I consider. I take the call. Your voice radiates through the mic. “Em, where are you?”

I stare at the wreckage. “What used to be home.”

You’re silent. “Are you okay?”

Another firework explodes. I wince. “Yeah.”

“Not ready to be with people, are you.” It’s not a question.

“I found just last week.” I sigh. “They’ve been dead for nearly three months.”

“Oh.” Your voice is very small.

I sigh. “I’ll be fine. They’ve got quarters in the city. Hundreds of people just off the ships haven’t a dollar to their name and haven’t got family around.”

Lyn stares at me with an aching expression as I’m talking. It’s at least comforting to know that yours isn’t nearly as pitying.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, probably.”

You don’t sound satisfied. “Em—”

“It’s the fourth of July.” I say, and let it settle in. “You need to be with your family.”

“Em, you are my family.”

“Dare—”

“I’m not just saying that.”

I sigh. “I know.” I rub my forehead. “I’m just not ready.”

You’re silent for a long time. I wince in the gap that silence leaves. “I’ll call you later, okay?” You offer.

“Thanks, Dare.”

“I love you.”

“Love you too.”

“Bye.”

The call ends. I gather the remains of my crumpled dignity. I put on the internal officer again and gather strength from it. I smile courteously at Lyn. “Thanks for offering. And for not being mad. Another time, alright?”

Lyn sighs. “Ok, Em.”

I start walking again, this time toward the city base.

 

I stop trying to sleep around eleven. Every time my eyes shut there’s an explosion and I tense up and reach for a gun that isn’t there. I think I’m in my plane again, the last time. I throw off the blankets. The air conditioning is too cold. The bed’s too soft. I open the window into muggy luke-warmness. It’s better than air conditioning.

I climb out onto the roof and stare at the light-polluted sky. I hate and love it at the same time. “Em?”

I hear a voice down in my room, and know that it’s yours. Anyone else would address me as either ‘sir’ or by my rank.

“Out here.” I realize slowly and all at once that I knew you were going to do this.

A short scramble and you’re beside me on the quilt I tugged out here. You offer me a cold can of soda. I pop the seal and drink. It’s been forever since I’ve had one. It must’ve been at least two years. You touch your can to mine. “Happy Independence Day.”

I stare at the sky. “Did you know John Adams predicted we would spend the fourth like this? Blowing stuff up to celebrate?”

You shake your head. “I don’t think I ever learned that.”

I sigh. “Yeah. Just like nobody reads the Declaration on the Fourth anymore.”

You understand what I’m getting at. “They’re going to forget us.”

“Everything we did. Just another period they study in history. All those lives destroyed. Touched on as a statistic.”

You slouch down. “It makes me feel so damn useless.”

I hear a shout of young laughter. A little girl clapping her hands. “Yeah. But I’ll tell you why they’re going to forget. It’s because they never had to know. They never had to know what it felt like. And that’s why our Founders fought, I think, and why we did. So they could be free enough to just see the cost of it rather than be part of the payment.”

Another explosion overhead so loud both of us jump.

“I hate it all, right now,” You say softly. “I know what you’re saying is true. I know why they’re all happy and celebrating but I can’t seem to get inside it. I just can’t stand it.”

I slide my fingers into yours and grip. “Then let’s be outside together.”

Overhead, I hear the anthem being blasted as a last barrage of fireworks goes off and the bell at the local Catholic Church tolls midnight. I’m not okay. I haven’t got a home to go to. But I can build one. And at this moment, with you, that’s enough to pull me through.

Promises, promises

What’s a promise?

noun
  1. 1.
    a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen.

Not a very good definition. So what do we mean when we promise something? Are we just saying words, that something will happen? That doesn’t, for me, fill the sense of “promise.” So thinking about this, one of the first things that came to mind was a little kid saying “Do you promise?” to someone they trust. Because if that person says they promise, then they what they are saying will be true.

“Promise I won’t fall?” A child asks you.

And inside, there’s that warm decision, as you say it, “I promise,” that you will make it true. You won’t let them fall. You’re making a choice, making what you promise true by saying it.

So promising saying something and deciding to do all you can to make what you say true.

If this is the case, then a vow, a solemn promise before God, is deciding before God to do everything you can to make what you say true. You’re telling God, “Okay. I’m going to do this, and you can hold me to that.”

When people get married, the words “so long as you both shall live,” are used. Each of the spouses says “I do.” They have decided to make those words true. They have just told God that he can hold them to that.

Marriage is not, (as some people would have us believe) a way of chaining individuals into a prison. It’s a covenant and a contract. It’s a partnership. It’s “You and Me, No Matter What, Let’s Do This.” It’s what a five year old thinks about promises. Because they said it, it’s going to be true. We’ll make it true. People have cheapened marriage. They’ve broken up marriages in a way they have no right to do. They have blackened the reputation of marriage. “Nobody can be perfect for someone all the time,” they say, to justify divorce. “Perfect for someone,” is not the point of marriage. “Passionately in love,” is not the point either.

That misses the point completely. Marriage is building life. Not building a life. Building life. As in having kids. As in raising kids right. As in staying together for better or worse, regardless of what you’re feeling. In some situations, such as abuse, separation (though not divorce) of the spouses is not only logical but necessary. But this case is not the reason most marriages today break up.

In the Book of Hosea in the old Testament, God likens his relationship with his Chosen People (and by extension, all of us) as a broken marriage and an unfaithful spouse. He doesn’t say, “it’s okay for you to divorce her because she was unfaithful.” He shows us, instead, that the most loving, faithful spouse is the one who is treated in this manner and forgives anyway. The most godlike behavior is when a husband (or wife) has to put up with an awful spouse and does it all the way, anyway.

This is hard to accept. It’s hard for us to give so much without resenting. But God tells us that this is behavior most pleasing to him. God likens his purification of us to a refiner’s fire. When a refiner refines silver, he burns it until he can see his reflection in it. We are at our most pleasing to God when we imitate him most closely. When we start to show his reflection when he looks at us.

There is no greater love than the love of God. It is given so freely, so completely, so without resent. He gives and gives and gives and he doesn’t demand. He asks, quietly, “Won’t you please love me back?” He waits for an answer as long as it takes. He doesn’t stop loving when we say no and walk away.

Notice that I’m extending this beyond promise, even beyond marriage. I’m extending this into love. Love is a choice. It’s deciding that okay, I can’t possibly love this person. I can’t like them. But I’m going to do it anyway. That is love at it’s strongest. That is when we truly act in love. When we don’t feel like it. I’m not saying that the feeling of love doesn’t mean anything, of course.

I feel very loving toward my friends sometimes, and very loving to my little sister and older sister, and that isn’t without meaning. But the choices I make, to give when I don’t feel like giving as well as when I do, are what tells me that I truly do love them. (To be fair, though, when I give to my friends it’s way easier than giving to my siblings. I have to live with the sibs. It’s not always as easy as it could be. But then they have to live with me and that can’t be a picnic either.)

When we feel love, that’s like a promise. When we don’t feel like love, and we act out of love anyway, that’s keeping the promise.

In this get-ahead world, love like this is way undervalued. So many friendships are only friendships in name and are dissolved with a flourish and an explosion. Kids fight with their siblings and are happy to trash talk them. Marriage gets a bad rep. It’s not easy to be the one giving that love, it’s true. It can sometimes be agonizingly painful. It can leave you feeling drained, discouraged and really alone.

But you’re not alone in that. Anyone feeling that right now? I love you. I make the choice, right now, to love you. I hope it looks better in the morning. My prayers are with you.

And for the rest of us? (Including me.) Let’s start this now. Let’s not so much seek to be loved as to love (Saint Francis’ prayer is the best). Let’s live the promise of love.

God bless you all, may your love be fruitful, may you have a beautiful day, thanks for reading, and I love all of you.

Random quote I adore

From The Box and The Dragonfly by Ted Sanders. Highly recommend the book. The characterization, the originality, the plot is just perfection. It’s supposed to be a middle grade book but don’t let that fool you. It’s honestly better and in a way deeper than a lot of adult books I’ve read.

Anyway. On with the quote.

“May yours be light, Chloe.”

She furrowed  her brow in mock confusion. “Everyone keeps saying that. Fear is the stone, et cetera. Why a stone? Why not a pillow?”

Horace grinned weakly. “Fear is the pillow. May yours be fluffy.”

“Fear is the eggplant. May yours be purple.”

I LOVE IT.

More about The Inn

Short story I’ve been working on that links up two of my stories, the one about Raj and the one about Siri.


Raj ran, gasping and almost sobbing, helter-skelter down the strange streets. Her internal compass was no longer functioning; her insides had been converted into a shuddery ball of terror. The streets were disconcertingly deserted, even though she had been running down a thoroughfare but a moment before.

A hand reached out, from a doorway, and caught her shoulder. Raj turned, fists raised, ready to fight or scream. The girl in the doorway stared at her quizzically. “How did you even get here?” She asked.

Raj glanced back over her shoulder, terrified of what she might see. The girl’s face remained perfectly calm, but somehow Raj knew that the girl had found out, without even looking, what was chasing her. “Right,” the girl said, “Come inside. I give you permission to enter, for safety’s sake.”

The door, which had been pushing against them as though it didn’t want Raj inside or even at the door, swung open cordially, and seemed to become less dark and threatening. The girl tugged, gently, on Raj’s hand, and pulled her inside the building. The door slowly shut behind them, not in a hurry, as though proving to Raj it wasn’t intending to trap her here.

Raj stared up at the girl, who was staring through the glass peephole out at the street. Her mouth tightened at what she saw. The girl wasn’t at all tall. She might’ve been thirteen as easily as eighteen. Her hair was a faded silvery color which someone might have called brown or blond, or both. Her skin was pale and freckle-less. Her eyes were faded jade green, but the moment Raj thought that, they started to shift to a coffee-without-creamer brown, from the pupil swirling out like a spiral galaxy. Her face was rather triangular and her eyes were large. She was gawkily thin, but carried it so well that she seemed slender instead of skinny.

“Are you alright?” The girl said, without taking her eyes off the street.

Raj shuddered. “I don’t know,” she replied. “Are the things still out there?”

The girl nodded. “Yes, they are. Don’t worry about that, though. They can’t even get close to the house. They don’t know it’s here. All they can see is an abandoned apartment building.”

Raj blinked.

The girl smiled as though she’d seen it, even though she was still looking quite intently out. “It’s because they mean you harm. The Inn won’t let any guest be harmed on the premises. The innkeeper is out, so until she’s back, there isn’t any way they could possibly see the Inn for what it is. They’ll lose interest soon. To them, you stepping in here is like you disappearing completely off the face of the earth. Which is accurate because in a way you have.” The girl tipped back off her toes onto her heels, making her less than a foot taller than Raj.

She turned to Raj and clapped her hands with a smile. “Alright. I think some tea’s in order. You’re as pale as a ghost and that can’t possibly be healthy, with that lovely copper skin of yours. Come on. I’m Siri Katana, Dark Kaster, Secret Whisperer, Drinker of the elixir of—” and here Siri smiled so brightly that Raj knew a joke was coming—“Immortali-tea!”

Raj got it a moment later and all the punching adrenalin and nerves dissolved in a sudden laugh. Siri smiled too, and Raj got the sense she was waiting for Raj to introduce herself, but if Raj chose not to, Siri would continue being as friendly, but would be far more wary. Raj also knew that the girl posed little threat to her, and that she could know Raj’s name; it would do no harm. They didn’t belong to the same sphere of influence, and unless Raj harmed Siri’s sphere in some way, Siri would not interfere with her. “I’m Raj Carnegie.”

Siri grinned. “All of us powerful beings in the world must have unmistakable names, after all. This way.” Siri led the way into a sitting room, with a bright fire dancing gymnastics in the grate. The fire cheerfully spit out a shower of sparks in Siri’s direction. “None of that! We’re entertaining a guest who’s had a terrible fright. Remember your manners, this once!” Siri scolded. She pushed Raj gently into a huge chair, which morphed suddenly underneath her to be comfortably her size. A soft blanket was thrown across her lap by something Raj could not see.

“Do you like tea or cocoa best?”

“Tea, please, if it’s no trouble.”

Siri snapped her fingers. Beside the fire, a lovely tea service appeared, thin bone china with tremulous green and gold vines over it.

“What kind’s your favorite?”

“Mint and black?”

Another snap, and from the pot rose a steaming plume which smelled so lovely and homey that Raj couldn’t help feeling a little less scared and a little more curious.

“Anything you’d like to eat? Soup and toast’s good for a scare if you want some.”

Raj realized suddenly that she hadn’t eaten in a terribly long time, and her stomach growled.

Siri laughed. “Sounds about right, then.” Beside the tea tray, two trays of soup and toast appeared. Siri poured and then they sat opposite one another, eating and not speaking.

The Traveling Inn

A story beginning I wrote quite a while ago.


There’s a bridge about two miles North of Bloodlyn Street, and it faces out into the bay. Just start walking and ask everyone you meet to direct you to the Lighthouse Bridge. If it is a good day, you will meet many. Note that I did not say specifically that you would meet people. Follow the general direction they tell you to go, but don’t follow a straight path and don’t look back. Use backstreets if you can.

When you get to the Lighthouse Bridge, (keep in mind that you must walk at most part of the way; there’s no way to get there by driving, you’ll find) there’ll be a little girl standing on whichever end of the bridge you’ve managed to come to. Her eyes will be completely black from lid to lid, and she’ll be wearing a tattered pink party dress in a style that went out of fashion about a hundred years ago.

Don’t flinch when you see the little girl. She’s not the scariest thing in the city. Give her whatever trinket you have on you. Note that whatever you brought mustn’t be too large, but it should be fairly original and not something too easily broken. A little ring might do, provided it isn’t too childish, or a carved goldfish. It has to catch her fancy, or you’ve got no chance of getting where you want to go. Do not give her money. She cannot be bought. She can only be persuaded.

If she doesn’t take the trinket, walk away and try again another day. Try to at least give her a few months to forget you.

If she takes it, ask her to take you to Briar’s street. If she’s in a good mood, she’ll just start walking. Follow her, and don’t stop whatever you do. You do not want to be lost in that part of the city.

When she stops walking, be it in two minutes, or in two hours, you’re on Briar’s Street. Thank the little girl very politely, ask her no questions, and if she asks you for anything else, give it to her, no matter how silly her request seems. If you’re lucky, the little girl won’t follow you.

Walk up to the Lady selling Cider on the Corner and buy a drink. Tell her you want to see the little sword girl and the traveling Inn. She’ll direct you there.

Drink your entire cup of cider, give the Lady back the mug and tip her. Then go the opposite of the way she told you to go.

You’ll come to the Seer’s Avenue.

There will be a little brick apartment building, number 531, on the right. Make sure it has a sign on it that says ‘Rooms to let’. It will, if all’s well.

Now go in.

I promise that whatever you’re looking for, for good or ill, you’ll eventually find it there.

Fine

Sometimes things that matter cannot be expressed in words because

No one else is going to see why they matter.

You can’t explain why the inside joke is funny

Because it won’t be funny after the explanation

And you can’t tell someone how you feel

Because you can’t remember if you ever learned

A single word which would express all the muddled self-doubt

And pain and anger inside.

So instead of saying “I feel like I’m gluing my insides together

With scotch tape and prayers”

You say “I’m fine.”

And it’s kind of true ifyouaren’tcountingthe

Hardtimesleepingdifficultyfocusingsuddenlymiserable

Notsobadifyoudon’tthinkaboutit.

So yeah.

I’m fine.