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.

Glitter Bound

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(Photo: Jackson David on Unsplash)

 

She spun around, with arms spread wide

The tinsel spooling

From her outstretched hands.

Spilling from her golden crown,

And all about her glowing gown,

It glittered and eventually

Bound,

Her body to the very ground

From whence her heart and soul

Made sound.

 

 

 

For the dVerse quadrille poetry challenge: tinsel in 44 words

 

Wild Away

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Margot leaned closer to examine the stake. Her smile grew.

The child should be called Gretel, with such clues.

Then again, Margot was no evil stepmom. Or at least, not evil … The two of them couldn’t help not being biologically related.

Not any more than the girl could help being wild.

The social worker believed the latter a hindrance. Understandable, perhaps, given how many placements the child had lost. The system found it inconvenient to have a lass with more wilderness than tameness, who needed space and took it. Knowing Grenadine’s history, how could they not see why she’d tolerate no leash?

“This child will run away,” the social worker had warned when Margot said she’ll have her. “You’re so rural, you’d have no help keeping her contained.”

Margot had no plan to do so.

The child was free. The sticker meant that she’d be home by dinner.

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

So Much More

“It is so much more than just a game. It’s our future.” (Molly Wright, age 7).

This is science. This is humanity. This is potential. This is simple. This is profound. This is truth.

A not-even-eight-minutes video can change the future. Watch it. Share it.

 

 

Tethered To The Queen

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(Photo: Andrés Gómez on Unsplash)

 

If only they had thought to mark their way, perhaps they wouldn’t have lost it.

Then again, the whole idea of running away was to forgo discovery. Leaving shiny pebbles would have made the whole endeavor be over well before it had began.

They trudged along. Bellies emptier than in hungry nights before.

There was a misery in a scrabbled-for freedom. And yet at least their torsos did not suffer the indignity of another whip.

Eliah’s stomach growled. He sighed. “Only mouths are we.”

“Who sings the distant heart which safely exists in the center of all things?” Lilah responded, distracting him.

The boy grinned through tired tears. He knew the correct reply. The moon of course.

He pointed at the sky.

His grandmother’s nod was filled with pride.

For one was never lost while their heart stayed tethered to the night’s reigning queen.

 

 

 

For the dVerse Prosery challenge

Prosery prompt: “Only mouths are we. Who sings the distant heart which safely exists in the center of all things?from Rainer Maria Rilke, “Heartbeat.”

 

Best Of All

 

It rained. It hailed. It stormed. It flooded.

It none of it mattered.

They laughed. They sang. They danced. They huddled.

They had a chance to reconnect.

In all the ways that mattered, and in some they hadn’t quite dared hope for, yet came true.

Oh, they were cold. And after a time, hungry.

But still the stories flowed. The tears, sometimes. The laughter. Oh, the laughter!

Best of all, the others who would otherwise pass by,

Who would pass judgment,

Did not.

Because the weather

Protective in its dreary wetness

Let them be.

Let them love.

Made it perfect.

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

Photo prompt: © Dale Rogerson

What Is Allowed

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Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

They didn’t know what they could do. What’s left of what they had.

So they rode the day in minute steps, a hand in tender hand.

They sought the light as morning came.

They danced into the night.

Because they knew no ban could

Fully

Take away

What is allowed.

 

 

For RDP Tuesday: Ban

 

 

 

Call Home

Photo prompt: © Douglas M. MacIlroy

 

“Do you still have it?”

“Let me see,” he nodded at the screen even though he knew she couldn’t see him.

“Okay.”

The tremor in her voice told him everything: How tender she felt, how brave she was, how she couldn’t bear for him to ask directly lest it shatter what brittle control she managed to maintain.

“Got it,” he breathed. Attached. Hit ‘send.’ “Check your email.”

The line was silent. Then her voice, full of tears. “I knew it. I knew it hadn’t been a dream. She said she’d visit. From the after. Exactly this way. … And she came.”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

Their Own Continuity

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Photo: Yunming Wang on Unsplash

 

 

He said the world’s come to an end.

“Not quite,” she noted,

“For it keeps revolving.”

Her hand stayed warm

On his chest.

“Uninterrupted sun and set,

The dawn and birth,

Are their own continuity.”

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Continuity in 35 words

 

 

Attitudes of Gratitude

Living princess A.L.

Photo: A.L.

 

I chose to write this response to Dawn as a stream of consciousness piece. No edits. No pauses. No revisiting or rethinking or rephrasing. Typos and mismatched sentences and mixed metaphors and all. It is what it is. And so it is. Here goes, some ten things I am grateful for.

  1. You. I am thankful for all of you whom I met in the blog-lands in 2019, and for those I’d met before but got to know better in 2019. I’m thankful for the glorious, tender, poetic, empathic, wise, witty, funny, delightful, mysterious things you write and post and share. For all of you who love. For all of you I love. For the kindness shown to me.
  2. Kindness. I cannot overemphasize how grateful I am for kindness. For the big things people do for each other, yes. Opening one’s home to the needy. Giving of what one has enough of to those who do not. Going all out for someone else. Yes. All that. But also for the seemingly small acts of kindness: Holding the door for someone, making eye contact and smiling, paying for someone’s coffee, carrying someone’s groceries to the car, babysitting someone’s child so they can have a moment for themselves, clearing snow from someone else’s car, slowing down at the street crossing so someone who is slower or frail does not need to feel rushed lest the light changes before they are on the other side, being the driver who waits patiently till that slow-crosser gets safely to the other side … It all matters. Especially now.
  3. Connection. Through the big and small acts of kindness. Through the words we say and the things we do and the words we don’t say and the things we could’ve done and decided not to, because it was the better thing to do to refrain. To think not only of the immediate gratification but the long term realities of who we are and what we want to know about our own choices.
  4. Choices. For being able to have them. For being able to exercise them. For being able to know what they are and not take them for granted. For remembering those who fought for them and taking on the charge of fighting to help those who have far less choice, so they, too, have the choices they should have.
  5. Patience. Am grateful for learning a bit more of it. For knowing I’ve got more to learn and that I can take the time to become better at it. Patience with others who don’t see as I do. Patience with others who need me to see as they do and even if they have a difficult time accepting I do not see eye to eye with them and likely won’t, and yet that it is okay to disagree and no one needs to feel as if they’d lost face or have less worth. Patience with the things that take time that I don’t always feel I have. Patience with myself, especially. With my body’s limitations. With others’ human limitations. With the realities of pain and the cost of histories and with the urgency to know what the future holds, even if I know I can’t.
  6. The future. Grateful for the opportunity to work toward one. To be part of what change can be done that may help ensure the next generations will have one. To be part of believing that good matters and action matters and small choices matter, and that together we can be more light than doom, more responsible than victimizing, more repairing than damaging.
  7. Repair. Am grateful for the trust placed in each breath we breathe. For the potential to repair: relationships, the fractures of mistakes, the misunderstandings that come with complicated communications and different points of views and variations on information and the tug and pull of forces that may wish to harm, but we need not succumb to. Because we are better than that, and stronger at the seams of our repair. For the potential to hold hope and action for the repair of some aspects of this Earth, too.
  8. Hope. I am deeply, deeply, deeply thankful for hope.
  9. Children. I cannot imagine this world without them. There would be no world without them. They represent, embody, live, breathe, exude hope.
  10. Love, and the power of voice. I know. Two in one. For they are often one. Written, spoken, expressed love and voice. The kind that comes through in actions, in thoughts, in educating, in offering help, in wisdom, in words, in gestures, in the myriad ways that make us who we are. And help us grow.

May every day in 2020 — and in the decade unfurling, new and brimming with what can be still be born — bring us all that we are grateful for. And the courage and power and strength and stamina and magic to dream and trust and do and move beyond.

With a heart full of tremulousness and gratitude,

Na’ama.

 

 

(Adding here a link to last year’s list. Because it made me smile to read it. I’m quite predictable to myself, I am. I am.)

For Dawn’s “The 2019 Attitude of Gratitude List”