Arrowed Cloud

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(Photo: engin akyurt on Unsplash)

 

“He’s not cooperative,” his teacher warned me when I called to find out more about the boy who’d been referred to me for speech-language therapy. “He’ll find a hundred excuses to not do the work.”

“Sounds creative,” I interjected.

“He is,” the teacher conceded, “but it is exhausting.”

For him, too, I was sure.

“You’d think he’d settle down,” the teacher sighed, “but it’s like he’s gotten worse.”

Al* had language-learning issues. He struggled to express himself, to understand what he read and what was read to him. He mixed up letters. He mixed up messages. Exposed to alcohol (and quite likely to other substances) in utero, his early childhood was marked by constant shuffling between foster-care and reunifications with his biological mother, until parental rights were terminated, and he became eligible for adoption. He’d never known his dad. Al suffered from asthma. He had difficulty attending but reportedly “no difficulty misbehaving.” He scuffled. He cursed. He broke things. He kept getting in trouble. He spoke little, read less, and his writing was filled with errors. He was in fifth grade.

The “settle down” was a reference to his recent adoption by relatives of his biological mother. Now that he was in a “forever home with family besides” he was expected to move on. He was expected to “make gains,” close gaps, and be happy. He was undoubtedly happy for stability. He was also grieving, furious, frustrated, and failing at school. He acted out. He shut down. He “did not cooperate.”

He’d had at least four previous speech therapists. The teacher informed me that “he hates ‘Speech.’”

 

“You don’t look thrilled to have another speech therapist,” I noted on our first session together.

He raised a single eyebrow so perfectly that I wondered if he had practiced the move in front of a mirror.

I smiled. “Speech can be fun …”

“It sucks.” He stated.

I nodded. “I hear ya.”

“So, I can go?”

“Good try,” I chuckled. “We’re stuck together for now.”

He shrugged but didn’t flee.

“I don’t do work.” He warned, testing.

“So let’s not call it work,” I agreed. “Let’s just figure out ways to make the other work you have to do, a little easier. Because I think you’ve had to work way too hard.”

He narrowed his eyes, suspicious.

“I mean it. And … I can understand wanting things to be easier.”

He shrugged. Crossed his arms. Leaned into the backrest of the chair.

I saw it as truce.

The next few sessions were like pulling teeth. His attention flickered. He vetoed some tasks. He tried to sulk. But he listened. And he didn’t disappear into the boys’ bathroom when it was time for sessions. He tolerated me, which was better than what the teacher (and Al?) had predicted.

We took it slow.

Then I brought Shel Silverstein’s poems to a session.

“I’m not a baby,” he bristled.

“It’s not for babies,” I retorted. “It’s also for grownups. The illustrations may look silly, but lots of this is about serious stuff.”

He folded his arms and closed his eyes. On strike.

Or not.

I read.

His eyebrows were knit together, but then his shoulders lowered, and he took a breath. He frowned. He chewed his lip. He listened.

When I finished, he opened his eyes. Held my gaze.

“Cool, eh?”

He shrugged.

“Poetry is like that,” I said. “I love how it can find words for things, sometimes.”

He shook his head. Twisted his lips. Stared at the book. Flipped through the pages.

“Want me to read another one?”

He shrugged.

I did.

I read three more.

He scribbled arrows piercing clouds.

 

The next time I saw him, he pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. Fiddled with it. Shy.

“You have something?” I chanced.

Shrug. He stared at the poetry book I had prepared for us again. Unfolded his paper. Refolded it. Coughed. Took a breath. Thrust the note in my direction.

“Can I look?” I asked. Consent is tricky with kids who’d had others decide everything for them. I didn’t want him to think he had to show me.

He nodded. “I write it.”

I unfolded the page. Eight wobbly lines of transposed letters in phonetic spelling. A poem.

“Can I read it?” I checked.

He looked up at me, vulnerable and holding up an olive branch of trust, “yeah, but … but not loud …”

 

 

 

(Originally published in the March 2022 issue of ISSTD News as “Arrowed Cloud – The Use of Poetry in Therapy” )

*Name and details changed to protect privacy.

Not Cold

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“I am not cold!”

“Your lips are blue,” the mother deadpanned.

“They’re not!” the child insisted, her exclaim dampened by chattering teeth.

“I see,” the woman breathed and swallowed a retort. The girl was altogether too much like herself and would only dig in deeper if confronted.

One set of eyes stared at the other.

The shuddering intensified.

“There’s a nice warm bath and dinner waiting inside,” the mom dangled.

A shrug.

“And how long do you intend to be … um … ‘not cold’?”

The little girl narrowed her eyes.

“Very well. Shall I bring you a chair, then?”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

Photo: © Dale Rogerson

 

Singing Dandelions

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(Photo by Elijah Hiett on Unsplash)

 

The world was full of golden fuzz.

The sun shone on the meadow.

She let herself soar, up and up.

Her voice free to glide on from high to mellow.

 

“What is that god-awful noise?”

Aunt Edna woke, her voice a sonorous bellow.

“A yodel,” the child said.

“A bird in my throat sings the dandelions yellow.”

 

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt of: Yodel in 57 words

 

The Raise

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“Will you stop it already?”

Davie swallowed a sigh and lowered his eyes. He was making them stick out like sore thumbs.

“Only tourists and amateurs look up,” Bessie admonished, kicking a dry piece of sidewalk gum. “Real New Yorkers have already seen everything.”

Perhaps, but he had yet to. And he wanted to notice. Everything. Who lived in the tall building? Whose shoes were tied overhead? Why? Was it a memorial? A gangster’s territorial?

“Raise plow,” he read, imagining. He was looking up again.

“If we’re caught,” Bessie hissed,”the only raise you’ll get is welts from belting.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

Photo prompt: © Roger Bultot

 

Stable Home

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They thought it mattered to him that it wasn’t fancy. That he’d care it was damp. Or old. Or cobbled together from what materials could be found.

They were wrong.

All he ever wanted was a roof that did not leak, a hearth that could be lit, food enough to fill his belly, safety in his sleep, a bed that did not bite, walls that did not threaten to collapse about his ears.

The cabin was all that.

And more.

Sure, it had housed horses, and smelled of them, sometimes.

It only made it more a home.

A stable home.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

Photo prompt © Lisa Fox

 

Storied Stories

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They climbed in silence, single file, the occasional foot scraping a bare concrete step.

Lindon pressed his lips. It helped stop the trembling. This was his first ‘trip’ off the ward and he wanted to look around. To look at others for their reactions. But new or not, he’d learned enough to understand that it was better not to. He kept his head low.

A scent hit him. Like Grandma’s house. Last month. Eons ago. He blinked.

The stairs ended. He looked up. His eyes grew.

His heart, too.

A room of books.

Stories. Escape.

He knew he would survive.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

Photo prompt © Ted Strutz

 

 

When The Weather Allows

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“When will they come home?” Lizbeth’s voice penetrated Mauve’s daydream. It was rare to find rest in the middle of her day, and Mauve couldn’t help a touch of resentment at the interference. Guilt smothered it. The wee bairn could not help wondering. She missed her brothers as much as Mauve did her sons.

“When the weather allows it,” Mauve gazed at the sea. The maker and breaker of everything. She loved it. She loathed it. She couldn’t see a life without it.

“Tonight?” Lizbeth pressed against the rail.

“More possible tomorrow,” Mauve swallowed a sigh. “So we shall hope.”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

Photo prompt © Bradley Harris

 

Frozen In Time

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“What’s he doing there, Papa?”

“Serving his time,” he didn’t need to look to know what his granddaughter was pointing at. He could see it with his eyes closed. In his sleep. Seared into his very dreams.

“What time?” the innocence in the child’s voice returned him to the present. She could not know. So many died so she would not need to.

“His time in war,” he explained.

“To fight?” the green eyes were round under the cascade of unruly hair. The girl never could abide any hair-ties. Her mother despaired. He found it enchanting. He’d forgotten what it was to have hair

He nodded.

“But he’s just watching,” the child noted.

“Yes,” he nodded.

“Forever?”

He looked up at the man frozen in time. So many of them were.

“I hope not, child.”

She pressed his hand.

“I shall bring him a blanket,” she said. “And a pup.”

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Robin’s robin

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“Tell me again, Grandma,” the child burrowed into the bedclothes.

“You heard it a million times,” she ruffled the girl’s curls.

“But it’s my favorite story, Grandma!”

The woman smiled. Begging was part of the ritual. Their dance of love. She made herself comfortable and felt the small torso snuggle closer.

“Remind me again how it starts?…” she teased.

“Grandma!”

“Silly me. Of course I remember… So, there you were, born early and a little wrinkled.”

“A lot wrinkled!”

“Yes, a lot. And with a howling mouth ajar like a hatchling calling for a juicy worm …”

“Eeew …”

“And we didn’t know what to call you …”

“Till you saw my hair …”

“Which was as rusty as a robin’s bib.”

“And …” the child wriggled with anticipation.

“And it is clearly the right name, because a robin has been nesting in the tree outside your window ever since!”

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

She Was Busy

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(Photo: Dallas Reedy on Unsplash)

 

She was busy. She had no time for chatter. For sand to slide idly through the hourglass.

The day was short.

Each moment was precious. Each second, opportunity.

Her focus never wandered.

Each section had to have its exact place.

Every addition, calculated.

There were walls and gates and many fences.

There’d be knights and royals to showcase.

Moats and pits of fire.

She was, after all, building an empire.

 

 

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Empire in 70 words