Prisoner

To Amelia, the passing of time was important.

She stood proud as you please in the center of us, pointed her finger toward a blue sky we could only imagine, and declared: The eyes of posterity never blink. It knows who turns the keys in these locks and it will remember who shoveled dirt onto the bodies of our men.

The bit of illumination she followed was long and thin, taunting us through an arrow loop in the donjon wall the way guards sniggered through the iron bars. Long after the rest of us let go, she held on, tightly squeezing blood from welts and knife wounds to make one demarcation for dawn and another for dusk.

Dawn was easiest, not only for her but for all of us. The light would suddenly be there. Brilliant, even though without warmth. Tantalizing, even though unreachable.

Nightfall was harder, was always harder. Crying grew louder. Shrieking echoed off stone. Screams couldn’t be unheard no matter what we used to seal our ears. Amelia sprinkled a few drops where she thought the sun vanished. Coming back each day to scatter more, over and over. Loss of her drawing medium was never issue. What scabs dried and fell off one day would quickly be replaced, until finally she shouted triumphantly: Here. Right here. This is where day ends.

The next morning, they took her away. We sat quietly, watching the track of sunlight creep over the dirty, bare floor. They never brought her back.

I ask you: Does it matter where the shame lies, once the righteous are lost?

If only there were
floor and stamina enough to dance,
if only the music would last
one more hour
one more season, one more life.
Which song would I choose? Which partner
could gracefully twirl me, waltzing
into forever?
There were so many partners and songs.
So much music.
So many dances.
I wonder if regret is a superpower,
a sub-genre of invisibility,
a strength wielded by those
who have grown
too old to take anything back.

While Walking the Dog

Since I was last here, trees, vines,
and shrubbery have all vanished.
Chopped down, that is to say, murdered,
because of some personal inconvenience or a false sense of husbandry.

I miss the wildness, the shade, the random chance
that feral life would peek through green, shimmering leaves
trying to determine if I am good urban,
or the dangerous kind.
I hope never that — no, strive, I strive
to be more considerate, kinder, responsible
than my younger, greed-filled, entitled self.

God is not alone in judging my sins and regrets. Still,

this devastation, this massacre
of one city garden hidden behind one walled city block,
fractures
even the stalwart.



©Vera S. Scott

LIKE YELLING AT MIRRORS

 

How many ways are there to say,
to be gauche.
Today I will probably hit them all. Today,
all these years later, I am once again
angry with you.
Oh, I know, and you know,
that doesn’t change the love
or the grief,
that if anything it adds to
the personal guilt. But we need you.
Here.
Now.
But you’re still gone.
As completely and as foolishly as ever,
and it is just as when being without you was new and difficult to navigate,
a struggle to walk beyond.
See, I am still stumbling and tripping.
And you aren’t there to help catch…
any of us.

WATER WITCH

She rolled them in and out around her fingers, rubbed them between her palms. Small like stones, but not stones.
 
Nearby the octopus pressed between the wire wall and the cage floor, oozed onto the first shelf then the second then the third. She set the shark teeth on the counter and lifted the creature.
 
“Sweet, little thing,” she murmured, cradling it the way most would hold a baby. “Dear, sweet, little thing.”
 
Once the mollusk calmed, she used one hand to remove the hot cauldron lid then tossed the octopus into the boiling broth. Not everyone could hear its death scream, but she knew the sound was there, echoing over the rocks to the water, enchanting the sea. Next in were the shark teeth, then tiny flakes of barnacled hulls, followed by scrapings of mortar and bricks she’d collected the night before. Finally, she selected a tin canister from the array displayed on the counter, tipped it sideways and rattled dozens of bones from the toes of sailors into the mix. She gave the brew a thorough, final stir, raised her hands into the steam and repeated the ancient incantation in a language that was already old in her great-grandmother’s time.
 
She didn’t turn to the window to watch the results of the spell. She was confident that behind her the lighthouse slowly disappeared: First the base, then tamper, the stairs and living quarters, and last of all, the warning lantern, all of them gone.
 
At least, gone for the ship careening toward shoreline. The fishing vessels, dinghies and row boats could all see the beacon just fine. Only the man of war was blind. Only the man of war would rip apart on the rocks.
 
Before the fog lifted and the lighthouse returned, she hurried along the water’s edge with a sharp knife and sturdy basket.
 
The villagers would come, determined to save anyone who could be pulled from the wreckage. As they rounded the base of the cliff and came into view of the beach, she would call to them, “Hurry, this one’s alive.”
 
They’d run faster. They’d cry out, “Thank you. Thank you for helping them.”
 
They’d never think to question the missing toes.