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.

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

 

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

 

Tchotchkes

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(Photo: Smadar Epshtein)

 

“Oh Mama, look!”

The woman raised eyes from the screen to follow her daughter’s arm. “Kitsch to the max,” she wrinkled a lip at the stall.

“But Mama!” The child checked her tone before it thinned into a whine. She loved the shoes! She would need finesse. “I mean,” she shaped a grin, “for Purim?”

Her mother shook her head. “What are going to dress as, Queen of Tchotchkes?”

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Kitsch in 69 words

 

 

Long To Fade

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(Image: Alicja_ from Pixabay)

 

“Where have you been?!” her mother’s elbows speared the air like wings on a falcon, keen to dive.

The lass lowered her head and hiked her apron in an offering. The contents would not account for hours wiled away from chores, but they might reduce the heat of what promised to be imminent suffering.

“I went out to the hazel wood, because a fire was in my head,” the child demurred, unpinning one side of the apron to reveal a mound of early hazelnuts, “in eagerness to bring your favorite, Mother. Seeing how the morrow is your saint’s day.”

The woman’s scowl budged none. “A flatterer as well as an idle hand. I know a hasty crop when I see it. Now, as you are so eager, fetch a switch of hazel and I’ll give your hide a fire that will not soon fade.”

 

 

For the dVerse prosery challenge

Poetry prompt from W. B. Yeats

 

 

Blindsided

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“Once you’re out the other side you’ll be one of us.”

Marco hiked his chin to try and eye the larger boy through the slits of light underneath the tight blindfold. He wanted to take the stupid thing off. It was scratchy and smelly and made him feel sad.

But to do so would be to give up and be left out. He didn’t want to be left out. Again.

“What if I crash?” he tried but didn’t quite manage to keep the quiver out of his voice. He was afraid of the dark. And of falling. The others knew it. That’s why this test. To weave a skateboard, blind, through the concrete blocks in the underpass.

“Then,” Roberto replied haughtily, “you will have only yourself to blame for not being good enough.”

Marco blinked. It sounded wrong.

Before he could pull the blindfold off, someone gave him a push.

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Magical Immersion

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Photo: Amotz Barlev

 

When the sunlight ends early

And twilight follows

Close,

Grab a book and dive into vast

Worlds where anything

Goes.

Immerse yourself into the realms

Where magic is the

Norm

And ride the wings of imagery

All night into the

Morn.

 

Note: I just had to share (with permission, of course) the absolute delight of this photo of my grand-niece and grand-nephews so utterly absorbed in their books. A bookworm myself, I’ve spent many an evening immersed in reading. Still do. It shaped my life. This gift that keeps on giving offers riches that all the money in the world cannot, and I am so so heartened to see it in children. I hope you read. I hope you read to your children. Your children may well follow your lead, and love of reading is a ‘bug’ well worth ‘catching.’

 

Sentient Sorrow

“She won’t come.”

The woman raised her head.

“Who?”

“Grandma,” the child repeated. “She won’t come.”

The woman sighed. “Grandma’s dead, Lottie. It means she can’t come anymore.”

Lottie shook her head, brown curls dancing with insistence. “She can, but she won’t. It’s time to move on. She said.”

The silver stripe in the woman’s hair blinked in the light as her head tilted. “When did she say that?” she asked carefully.

“Last night.”

The woman’s eyes filled. “In the den! I thought I was sleeping!”

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Sentient in 86 words

 

 

At Arm’s Length

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“You cannot avoid her forever,” Mom’s sewing barely paused as she cut the thread and got another length through the eye of the needle, “not when Alice lives but an arm’s length away.”

I hunched miserably over my own sewing, the tip of my tongue lodged against my teeth where it would not show but can still provide me some security. The ‘hidden’ stitch kept sprouting comas of thread on the side of the hem one wasn’t supposed to notice any. I was hopeless at needlework. Mom still insisted.

I avoided you finding safety pins in my hem, I thought to myself, and our cramped quarters allow even less than arm’s length.

“I’ll go around,” I tried.

Mom actually snorted. “You think Mrs. Munster will become your thoroughfare?”

I shrugged. Mrs. Munster’s house bridged the alley. She was a dragon, but I just couldn’t face Alice. I was too ashamed.

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge