A Thorny Issue

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Photo: Andrey Grinkevich on Unsplash

 

There would be no smooth solutions

No easy way to extract

Themselves

From the tangle

They had let grow

All around them.

 

Only one way out was left:

Through the bramble,

Through the sorrow

Through the scars that would

Need nursing

Back to truth.

 

 

 

For the dVerse quadrille challenge: Bramble

 

 

 

Slip From Grip

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Enslaved persons cutting sugar cane on the Island of Antigua, 1823, (The British Library)

 

 

She fed them well so

They would

Sleep,

And silently

She gave the slip,

To all she knew

Yet did not sweep

Away the bite

Of whip.

She fled,

So the child in

Her belly’s keep,

Would not writhe, helpless,

In another person’s

Grip.

 

 

For the dVerse quadrille challenge: slip

(Note: Dedicated to all who suffered and still suffer under the yoke of injustice, discrimination, racism, and pretense. We can do better than this. We must do better than this.)

 

 

 

 

Her Heart Be Known

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Photo: alexandra lammerink on Unsplash

 

She did not know how

To have her heart

Be known,

Other than to

Let her spirit

Be flush with

Hope,

And to allow her

Soul to

Blush bright

With the

Intent,

Even if

Her words paused,

Timid,

From the moment

She’d left

Home.

 

 

For the dVerse quadrille poetry challenge: flush

 

 

The Order

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Photo: Linn W on Unsplash

 

She’ll refuse, for she must,

The order

To adjust.

She will hold up the laws

And go forth

Just because.

She will not, not today,

Bow to cults

Or obey.

She’ll refuse, for she must,

In her own heart

Have trust.

 

 

For the dVerse poetry challenge: Order

 

 

Active Trust

Swing About OfirAsif

Photo: Ofir Asif

 

Twixt the tethers of Heaven

And Earth,

Swings the trust

In the ropes

That you’d learned but

Perhaps

Did not quite

Yet test out.

 

 

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Action

 

 

Wingspan

 

“I will not have everyone out in the cold!” Mrs. M’s hands were planted firmly on her hips, and when Mrs. M’s hands were firmly on her hips, any who knew what was good for them knew to nod submissively, back up slowly, and give up.

Not Tim.

Sometimes I wondered if he had no survival reflexes or if he confronted the headmistress exactly because he didn’t care to survive.

“We don’t have to be out, out,” he argued.

Mrs. M’s cheek twitched. Oh-oh.

I backed up just in case. If she reached for the switch it would be best to not remain within wingspan.

“We can use the hot-house,” he pressed. “Sunlight and no wind. We’ll be fine.”

The twitch stopped. I held my breath.

“Most panes are intact.”

Mrs. M nodded.

I gaped.

Tim won.

Cramped orphanage or not, he found a way for outdoor play in wintertime!

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimsons Creative Challenge #61

 

 

 

One Thousand Steps

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

The snow fell softly in the early hours, blanketing a brittle frost with a bridal veil.

She undid the entrance flap and shivered in the chill. Her thin underclothing was not sufficient for the cold. She retreated back into the shelter to don her clothes, lace her cloak, and pull on her boots.

Still when she emerged from the tent, her breath caught in the frigid air. She welcomed it. She needed her wits about her, today more than most.

Her feet crunched over the frozen ground as she hurried to relieve herself by a nearby tree. The warmth leaving her body felt palpable. In it there was relief and wariness, both.

She did not fold the tent but she did not know if she’d return to it. What she did not carry along might not be seen again … and she would not be carrying much. She was warned to bring naught but herself.

“You’d have no need for anything,” were the instructions.

The words could be ominous or comforting. She wasn’t sure which it was and she didn’t think she was meant to be certain about it. Or about anything.

There was some food left in her pack, but her stomach did not feel ready for any digesting. She drank some water instead. It tasted flat and smelled of the container it’s been in, but it would have to do. She didn’t know where water sources might be found and even if she saw some on the path she didn’t think she’d be able to avail herself of any.

She shuddered again. Of fear. Of cold. Of worry. Of expectation. Of trepidation. Of all of the above.

It will be what it will. She had little choice now. She’d given her word, and what follows was not for her to decide on anymore.

She turned her back to the tent and began counting paces. The location for her tent had been marked. The one thousand steps were to be taken away from it, with the rising sun at her back.

She mouthed the numbers, ignoring the breeze as it tunneled under her cloak, the errant twigs that grabbed hold of her hood and deposited wet fluffs of snow on her hair, down the nape of her neck, on her back. No one had said what will happen if she lost count. She did not intend to find out.

The steps became a meditation of intent and tunnel vision. The world receded into the yard immediately ahead. Then the next. Then the next.

Nine hundred ninety nine, she breathed.

“Turn around.”

She jumped. The sound came from the space her body had just vacated.

She turned only to be blinded by the sun’s glare, rising through the narrow branches of a sapling. The light speared her.

When she finally adjusted, she was elsewhere. The forest was no more. The world as she’d known it, gone.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

Too Steep To Stand

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Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

Up steep stairs

Of old, new places

He is reaching up

Hand over hand.

Bravely mastering

The gaps that make it,

Way too frightening

To stand.

Up he goes,

A little hero,

Climbing life’s thrilling

Demand.

In his moment of

Adventure,

Oblivious

To just how well we

Understand.

 

 

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Steep

 

 

Life’s Cliff

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Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

Until you manage to get

Past the jagged edges

Of life’s cliff,

You’ll dream of rivers

Soothing through

The valleys

Of What If.

Till then you’ll hold on

To old anchors

That keep you

Safe from doom,

And luxuriate only

In dreams of

Rappelling out

Of your fear’s womb.

 

 

For the Word of the Day Challenge: Jagged

 

 

Poke Practice

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“I’ll flunk.”

Malinda sighed. Her brother needed an inordinate amount of putting up with.

“You’ll be fine,” she forced calmness into her voice. In part because she felt bad for him — Jerrod had always been too sensitive and too-tightly wound — and in part because she did not wish to then have even more of his perceived wounding to bandage.

“I’ve flunked it before.”

He had. Three times.

“You were younger and you were less experienced,” Malinda soothed. “Here, have some tea. It’ll calm your nerves.”

Jerrod folded his legs and lowered himself to the floor, only to spring back up and resume pacing.

“What if I don’t pass this time, either?” the youth fretted. His hair was plastered against his bony cheeks and his gray eyes appeared sunken under the woolen hood of his cloak.

Malinda took a deep breath. It was becoming increasingly difficult to believe that the morose youngster was ever the cherub-faced toddler she’d cuddled to sleep, and whose ringlets were impossible to resist poking a finger through.

Poking. … How odd that this was what her memory conjured. Or perhaps not so odd. Considering.

“Sit, Jerrod,” she repeated, putting an order behind her voice. He was not helping himself by fanning the flames of anxiety. He needed controlled calm in order to tame flame.

He sat and she handed him the wooden cup filled with steaming liquid.

“What’s in it?” his voice rose with a wariness she knew had nothing to do with the contents of the tea.

“Pine and honey. Nothing altering. You know I would not break the rules about such things.”

“Not even for me?”

His vulnerability and neediness grated. She breathed to calm herself. She could not ask of him what she did not require of herself. “Not even to you,” she emphasized. “One cannot poke fire when their own mind is on the flee.”

He blushed. He knew that. Everyone did.

“I’m scared,” he admitted, nose buried in the drink.

“I know,” she said gently. “Let the fear become the center of your gravity, then send it through your arm. Use it to concentrate your force. Fear is energy. Make it work for you.”

“Is that what you did?”

Malinda felt her eyebrows rise. People did not ask others how they’d passed their Poke Test. She was of a mind to remind her brother of the intrusiveness of his query, but she knew it would only further increase Jerrod’s sense of isolation. Perhaps others did not ask because they did not feel the need to. Obviously he did.

“Yes,” she replied, and the word brought back the trepidation she’d felt. The mix of terror and excitement, the flush of fear that became an arrow of determined indignation. She had passed. On the very first try.

She closed her eyes at the revisiting of the panic and the thrill.

She’d just completed her one-digit years and became eligible for attempting the Poke Test. To tame and manipulate fire was to be afforded the respect suitable for one who mastered the life-element they could none of them survive without. Fire was life. To know it, to master it, was a necessity and therefore a right of passage.

Some, like her, passed the Poke Test soon after turning ten. Jerrod had tried, and failed. And tried, and failed. And tried and failed again. Cowering before the flame he was reduced to tears, allowing the tongues of fire to do as they wished. He could not master it. It mastered him.

He was thirteen now. The oldest among those who were yet to conquer fire. Save for Leon, who was almost twenty but soft in the head. Even Sandra, who was blind, had tamed the blaze by twelve.

“Yes,” Malinda repeated. “I was afraid, but I turned that fear into a wand and ordered the flames to bend to my will.”

“A wand?” Jerrod’s eyes met hers, and she hoped that the glimmer she saw in them was of will-power rather than the sheen of anticipated defeat.

She nodded. The sound of bugle resonated. It was time.

“Come, brother,” she grabbed his hand and pulled him up to a stand. “Today, you pass from child to man. Go and tame the fire with your wand.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s Write Photo challenge