Two Pieces by Kelsey Lee
Late beside a stretching trail, west to east with leaden feet.
An empty bench waiting beneath an ancient oak tree,
aching out for my bones to creak over and sit.
'Here', I felt, but what better place to fit?
Waiting there alone, but not the least bit in silence.
Accompanied by the droning duet of memories and insects,
soothing me as best they could from the fiendish things I think.
But who am I to demand the creatures that creepeth sing in sync?
Sawing and hacking, their chorus kept on still.
Vibrating wings and skeletal legs beating violently against my spinal chill.
A million eyes upon me, but lo, not one could see
the hammering in my soul drowning out their song for me.
"No use.", I told the noise. "My thoughts are much too loud."
Too thick the fog would take it's place; caressed without a sound.
Too small, my hope, still droning out with mechanical whim;
too small to find them and catch a wisp of their crawling kin.
A moment I sat without speaking. Their source I sought to find,
and all at once in driven chorus their hum was lost behind
the Autumn breeze and static peace, a second I thought I felt
a wrinkle in time of warmth for the frost to finally melt.
Twas in this instance, passing through the eye encompassing my seat,
a great whirlwind began to stir; a thunderless sky began to beat.
The oaken giant above, strong, old, and holding firm
swayed and bent and cracked among the violence of the storm.
Shaken with fear, I fell upon my knees to pray:
"Mercy, oh Most High above!", reaching out to not blow away.
"I beg thee, calm these wicked winds that sail across my skin!
Halt the flooding flashes that barrage me for my sin!"
My eyes ascending toward the late night sky,
a great black shape, in flight, flashed by.
Like lightning, encircling both Heavens and Earth,
an Odonata of God beneath the world was given birth.
At once, the storm surrendered both wrath and understanding.
The twisting and howling was his, and from his flight he made landing.
In silver moon streaks, his metallic armor gleamed
on mighty bulks of smoothen emeralds. Impenetrable it seemed.
His transparent wings outstretched, and through them one could see
the same world cloaked in blackness my life had come to be.
A ruby glare ensnared me. His ommatidia, an iridescent flame.
Despite the countless lives before, not even time could grasp his name.
His countenance stern, and like a statue his legs stood form.
His body, like a hewn tree, but not a lick of flame could burn.
Woe beneath his shadow, beneath his mighty form of horror,
there was naught unseen to this champion of explorers.
Like a coward I did witness, and my spirit seek to flee,
yet motionless he sat still in his dead storm's breeze.
Zipped shut without a stitch, a silent ghost before him shivered.
And in great spectacle he spoke, dry and soft like a whisper.
'Round about me full his voice did come.
"Twas thee, mortal man, felt the taste of the sun?"
Astonished. Frozen. I could not reply.
and though I could not speak, before him I could not lie.
"Tis black as pitch.", he sighed. His words a miserable note.
"Know not the sun shall fade?; that moment of heat be smote."
The spark of life before the storm, after his kind did halt
their complimentary moaning for the misery I had felt.
From whence it came, I knew not,
but with a touch of courage I spoke up.
"The warmth was a moment I had not felt in so long.
like an ember distant from it's fire, burning to belong."
"Belonging to what?", asked he. "This cursed course of time?;
bound to it, I watched thee, and not a grain of it had rhyme."
"One as old as thee", said I, "surely hath kissed the sun?"
and at this his black glass wing beat, and his kin began to hum.
But not a song they sang, and in pain they droned long.
Dying down in silence for their King to speak on.
"Grand illusions it is thou seek? Kissed by moments
that snare the heart like winter when the Earth is dormant."
For a moment I pondered. Fumbling for my words.
What could I possibly say He has not already heard?
For a time, like a fool, twas I like an insect that stood
at the mercy of a giant, scared to flee, though I should.
My pause, i broke. "Like the trees, a sea of green beneath your wings
and the dripping petals of wildflowers quietly growing in spring;
reaching high, they too rise for the sun and glow.
Receding through the night, but in the morning they show
vibrant with joy from the war for the warmth.
Cheering in success at another day's birth."
Malicious, he grumbled. "Wise man then tell me why
it is life you place upon the flowers, and not their own choice to die?"
"The flowers choose not.", said i. "By chance they fall or bloom."
"Bold words from thee." said he. "As it was you out here alone."
"But not by the choice of my own!", I snapped, and at the notion bit my tongue.
He said, "No more free than the flowers beneath a fading and running sun.
Mortal man, thou be courageous in what he seek;
happiness in a world so cruel and bleak.
Try as you may, but with scars flaring to remind thee,
none, but misery, thou shall find as company."
His words were thick with a darkness, ancient and true,
and just a touch upon the mind could blot the sun from clear view.
Perhaps he was right, and all my screaming for the day
was trivial in its fight, as all I loved was taken away.
"Senseless", he continued, "all thy wants and needs,
when even the unconscious dream rots beneath
the great weight of Gaias girth
decaying even the beauty of birth."
A layer of his words, with quick enchanting, ceased the scene.
That great oak, once standing, torn asunder at its seems.
The low grass driven far beyond where the sun rose and set,
now scorched to their roots with no sign of coming back.
The stars had all fallen, or perhaps sunk from sight;
fearful of his sulking and the sorrow of his might.
My last vestiges of strength, now fallen and smashed.
Overcome by his words, and his word's world shaped at last.
"How miserable.", I sobbed. What little warmth I had erased
and in megalithic weight the Odonata's words replaced
the speck of light, dearly, I had held so very tight,
like ashes to ashes, it's dust was taken in the night.
"How long?", I asked, "How long must this vision last?"
and before his response, he scoffed, "Ye know the answer to that.
The air may fill thy lungs, and thy heart pump it's blood,
but in the end all equalizes among the worms and dirt and mud.
Mortal man, be not brass. Be not stubborn against this world.
All things come to pass away, and into the darkness the spirit hurled."
"How then," I began, "Do I find the spark to thrive;
before, the slightest scent, was all but needed to contrive
the fuel to hold back the sadness; the bombarding at my door,
and shield my love from danger and return to her once more."
"Long gone.", his voice lumbering out, "That hope has since passed.
How then shall thee awaken to a day ever made with glass?
Thy strength ye molded in another, an illusion for such fools.
Be it man or woman or time: thy blades dull and become crude.
Bluntly crushing each and every heart seeking to expose
the lie of sprouting happiness, aching beneath thy chestbone."
His wings, like portals spread agape against the sky,
only to be witnessed by the lack of stars they provide.
Deep into the nothing I peered.
Spiraling endlessly across no measure. Thrust in like a spear.
Lost (if you could say) in a domain of no direction,
surrounded by nothing, and everything, I hate in my reflection.
Outside looking in, Apathy's embrace appeared so welcoming.
Soothing concern with carelessness, and desperately, I called back to her beckoning.
Blissful, one might think, to stretch inside the Dragonfly's wings,
to commune with one so trodden, and set aside such beautiful things.
Never again to see my heart stricken with a blow,
and yet never again to feel, or so much as find the love I sought to know.
Woe to you, what friends I leave behind,
whom seek curiously to know, and foolishly dip their toes to find
Purgatory is a lie: a shade of grey to sell.
Soon you'll sell it all, and with lifted eyes find yourself here too: here with me in Hell.
I felt my spirit burning and my soul begin to twist
from the glimpse of life's cold heart. Early I did resist.
Bitter bitten nails, which chewed them though I did,
still clawed inside to peer about a life I couldn't live.
Forsaken, I would find the nerve to squeeze between the pain.
To force myself among a world apathetic to my name.
'What a shame.' some would say, but perhaps I am to blame;
for I always chose to fight for treasure I knew I'd never gain.
It is what it is, and I think, therefore I am
sick of all these kindred hands building a world God damned.
The bitten bullet swallowed. The spear that gores the lamb.
The floods that find your family deeply soaked into the land.
Evaporated quickly, and in haste they all withdraw,
and I curse them all to shadows from within my cave's maw.
Bested. I was beaten. Singed, my feathers fall.
Forgotten by a cruel world I should have ended once and for all.
Afterall, through me, everlasting torment I did wish;
and sought out each and every reflection (not to see) but lo, to spit.
Upon the mirror's truth, a buried rage I must admit
to tear open my chest agape, and remove my heart from it.
"Havoc!", they cried, and havoc now I seek.
A conundrum of the mind when peace and love release
their grip, a weak breeze, sailing fraily through the leaves.
Broken down by arms of bark, that grit and bear their teeth.
Lowly, I sat, and ground my teeth from broken trust
like eroded valleys gutted and over time reduced to dust.
On and on and on I walked, never halting, though I must.
Beyond profundity of the ocean, the Earth, and all its crust,
I found no place among it; no place to lay my head,
no place to rest my weary soul, no place for me to bed.
No place for me was granted, and all doors locked instead,
to keep me shut from hopeful dreams with good wishes till I was dead.
But on I sought for comfort in a place I don't belong,
when all about me suddenly, a most beautifully radiant song.
On and on and on it rang like angelic bells get along.
Drawing me ever deeper into this place I don't belong.
None I have found out here not stricken; least of all willing to sing.
Yet, on the voice cried, enduring reprised, surely for someone to bring
a presence long forgotten in a place long needed for dying.
Curiously I stuttered towards this one last beautiful thing.
Closer I had come. From a woman it made it's course.
And where once I heard a pretty bird, now stammered with remorse.
For once I sulked with company, another could be first,
to grant me now a purpose, and gift me happiness for her.
Around me, a forest, who's density still yet grew,
and soon I found myself engulfed in barren branches dew.
Besieged by thorns so sharp, and pity yet so few,
I found the will to struggle through and seek that voice anew.
"Please.", ever so softly, droning out with fright,
"I hear you! I hear you!", please step out into the light.
Your song, a brook so tender to chase away the moon and night.
Tender like two doves forever together in flight.
"No. Please come forward. I sing not here for free,
but the cost is so little. A little closer and you'll see."
More thorns to suffer. More shade and shadows for me,
but surely sacrifice pays a cost negate of any fee.
Scarcely receding, giving little room for me to stretch,
the trees somewhat stepped aside, like cringing at a wretch.
Beyond their line an open mouth upon the hillside etched,
and a gust of air foreboding, blowing out a terrible stench.
"Here, oh noble man. Save me from this wicked place.
I'm trapped within these webs and my innocence defaced.
Please, come closer. Upon your shoulders my pain erased.
You can surely cut me free from spinnerets long traced."
Foolishly, I stepped inside the last hell I'd ever want.
Before me, no slender beauty, but a spider in dreams that haunt
each and every waking dream, and my psyche left to taunt
what was or what could be, before me here to flaunt.
Drawn in by the beauty (the lie) that life beholds,
now I suffer could-have-beens in apathetic mold.
Trapped now forever with no spark left in my soul,
I cry and laugh and weep in ash for a spider I wanted to hold.
Two Stories by Maisi McIntyre
How Many Cookies Does It Take to Fill a Home?
Mom always wanted to be a baker—open up her own bakery on a small-town street corner, the perfect setting for a Hallmark movie. Baking was her expression, her pastime, her way to deal with the troubles of life. There were always dozens of chocolate chip scones stacked on top of each other miles high filling the whole house with a baked sugar-sweet smell. The perfect way to wake up on a Saturday morning, or warm snickerdoodles on a cold and bleak Sunday afternoon. The house always smelled of baked goods. I preferred it that way.
My sister and I loved the holiday times especially because that meant mom would spend her free time in the kitchen dedicating hours and hours baking, icing, and glazing. Our house would be filled to the brim with sweet treats and baked goods. Everyone came over to try mom’s baking. I mean, I couldn’t blame them; she did have the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, and she would always make cinnamon roasted pecans. Those were a fan favorite.
“Ms. McIntyre, these cookies are so delicious.” My friend Mitchell said while frantically packing away all the cookies set out on the table into a Tupperware container to take home.
“Here, take another container so you can bring some home for your parents.”
My sister and I would always sneak downstairs in the middle of the night, me for more roasted pecans, her, for mom’s lady locks. “The best late-night snack around,” according to her, but she would eat lady locks whenever wherever. That’s why when mom made lady locks she had to make about three dozen especially if she wanted to give some to her friends or co workers. Mom always had to separate what we can eat and what she’s giving to others; My sister and I would definitely eat everything.
While baking seemed to be what made her happy, sometimes I would find her in the kitchen covered in so much buttercream frosting as if it could take away the pain, as if the frostings sweetness could take away the sourness of life. She was trying to put her life back together after it was forcefully and unwillingly torn down; after love turned its back on her and forced her to hand over divorce papers. After her husband betrayed her and left her to question everything about love and a faithful relationship. After life told her to move, get out, and start somewhere new and all alone to raise two kids. Help always seemed so far away. So, maybe she thought if she made more cinnamon rolls or snickerdoodles than our table could hold it would fix something inside of her. Maybe the frosting would be the glue to hold her broken pieces together. Or maybe the sugar sweetness of her bake goods would mask the sour hand she had been dealt. The sour hand she has been forced to live with and make do.
It’s hard to imagine mom ever being upset. She was the buttercream frosting glue that held our family together. She was always there, always ready to put my needs before hers, and while I will never stop appreciating everything she has done for me, I wish she would chase after her dreams and go after what she wants. While I know she does not regret much in life and she says she wouldn’t do anything differently, I think a small subconscious part of her would. A small part of her would open up her own bakery or even apply to culinary school.
Mom always wanted to be a baker—open up her own bakery on a small-town street corner, but she gave up that dream because everyone else gave up on her too, and what she going to do with two kids? Finish icing a cupcake while her kids were screaming in the next room? No. She had to step up and be what a parent should be. So, she did what any mother would do, she tucked away her fantasy into the deepest darkest corners of her mind, and she raised her family.
She raised her family on snickerdoodles and lady locks.
I Answered Satan’s Craigslist Ad
“It sounded like a good idea, but everyone told me it wasn’t safe and that he would end up killing me, blah, blah, blah. So, I did the only logical thing and ignored all the warnings. And moved in with some guy I found online.”
“Why would you still choose to move in when everyone suggested otherwise?” Dr. Klopp asks me.
“The rent was cheap, the apartment was nice, he was nice. And I was frantically trying to find somewhere to live while I have my internship. It wasn’t until two months later that things started to get freaky.”
“Freaky?” she gives me look telling me to explain.
“Well…it started out small. He would get mad if I was up past 3am which isn’t often, but if I can’t sleep, I study for my online classes. I can’t have more than one person over at a time, I can’t use anything that’s his. He’s really weird about that, but it gets worse.” I say while watching her make a list of all the things psychos do.
“Just remember you asked for this.”
“Liv! Are you home?” I heard Justin shout. I quickly picked everything up off my floor and threw all the trash away that was lying around.
“In my room!” I scrambled to open my laptop and pretended I was answering emails.
I could hear his loud footsteps as he made his way through the apartment. He knocked on the door even though it was open. “There’s still dishes in the sink,” was the first thing he said.
I nodded. “I know, I got home thirty minutes ago and haven’t had the chance to do them.” “But you had thirty minutes since you got home.”
I didn’t say anything as I brushed past him to do the damn dishes. “How long have they been there?”
I rolled my eyes. Here we go again. “Since this morning, Justin. I rinsed them out and set them in here because I didn’t have time before my internship to do them.” I grabbed the soap and started scrubbing.
He didn’t say anything as he stared at me washing and scrubbing and rinsing. He did that often; it’s like it turned him on to see me clean. It was disturbing to say the least.
“MaryAnn is coming over later,” he said after I was done washing.
I internally groaned. Oh no, not that bitch. “Great.”
“Remember to stay in your room.” Trust me, I will, I thought to myself, but I just nodded at him and plopped down on the couch while he made dinner.
I tried to enjoy the latest episode of Game of Thrones since I was only allowed two hours of TV time a day. Another one of his weird rules. I was barely at the apartment so it never bothered me. Plus, I had a laptop to watch whatever and whenever I wanted.
Then there was a knock at the door. “I’ll get it.” Justin opened the door and in walked MaryAnn. I thought she wouldn’t be here until later?
They didn’t say anything to each other as they came over into the living room. She was carrying a black garbage bag that smelled so foul and nasty it made my eyes water. Justin was holding newspapers, scissors, knives, and a giant bowl.
What is this, some sort of sacrifice?
“Olivia, do you mind?” Justin said while trying to casually nod towards my room.
“Got it, but I have to say I’m a little offended I never get to partake in the sacrificing of small woodland creatures in the middle of our living room,” I said only joking, but neither one of them laughed. Tough Crowd.
I locked my room door and continued Game of Thrones.
It was about two hours later when I heard a knock on my door. Justin was standing there with a very unsettling expression on his face. “Liv, I need you out here for something.”
“For what?” I asked trying to roll my eyes.
“Something,” he said as he walked back down the hall.
I slowly followed him. It was dark except for the few candles that were lit. MaryAnn was mixing something in a bowl and Justin was pointing to a giant red pentagram painted on the hardwood where our rug used to be.
“What the- I am not paying to fix that.”
“Liv, you’ve been the best roommate which is why I think it’s going to work this time.” He gripped my arm and led me to the center of the circle.
“So…your roommate tried to sacrifice you to Satan?” Dr. Klopp asks me. I nod. “Basically.”
She writes something down in her notepad. “Is there anything else you want to say about that?”
“Don’t answer roommate ads online.”
“That’s all?” she asks, prodding for more.
I shrug. “Always do a background check on any potential internet roommate. There’s a lot of creeps out there, and I’m not about to make the same mistake twice.”