Falling Away

For years he walked against the wind, struggled against life’s gales, fighting for each step. He would turn his head from side to side straining to draw breath at times as he shielded his face from the stinging reach of his mistakes, and when the wind turned to a lesser breeze he’d look skyward for a light to show him the way, but all he found was reflections of shame.

He would sit down then, hunker in and wait for the storm to pass. Then when it did and he could stand and see around him all he saw was nothing, he couldn’t see into the future and he couldn’t see into his past, all there was, was nothing. He failed, failed to progress, failed to attain, he failed to be anything but present.

Like so many the present is unaccounted for, they wander between what came before and what happens next. Never knowing their fate, always looking for the solid, steady ground below their feet, which always seems to be there…until it isn’t.

When that moment comes and it always does, you have choices to make; you can surrender and fall away or reach out desperately and grab hold of the very edge and hang on. Then you fight, you fight with everything that’s left, you fight and claw and battle against gravity. You pull and struggle, and you as your fingers bleed and become cold and frozen and the feeling in your legs dissipates quickly you get angry and you spit as you cry out for a chance, just a little opportunity to show you have something left to give.

When you dig deep enough and you find that small flame buried somewhere in your soul you suck it in, and use it and crawl from that hole and roll over onto your back, exhausted, and weep. For you just learned that there is fight in you yet, that there is something worth saving and you love it and caress it and as you lay there contemplating the present, you realize that the clouds that kept your world dark and empty have begun to thin. You see blue sky and know there is something in your future if only you strive to put it there, there is something and you will find it.

Midnight River

No one understood how deep the darkness was.
This darkness was not the redeeming darkness of night.
It was a darkness that crept across the page, between words.

River water ran through her blood.
It renewed her soul, flowing both deep and muddy
in places, and rippling with sparkles in others.

She looked for redemption in these waters of contrast.
She tried to let water wash the darkness away but it was too heavy.
Words and water alone were not enough this time.
This was a darkness she fought with everything she had.

The road out of town she followed was not others’ road.
Her road was a solitary journey, of discovery, of quietude.
She stood for a moment in silence, just breathing,
absorbing the energy and history people left behind.
It’s what made places holy.

She had always wanted to fly.
To spread her arms and effortlessly take flight,
bending her fingertips just so to catch the breeze and glide,
to follow her heart without blinking,
to feel weightless again, but an open cage door
is of no use to a bird with a broken wing and though
glass birds sparkle in the sun, they shatter when they fall.

She knew some paths were meant to be lit by the sun
while other paths were better lit by the moon and stars.
Moonlight changed her when she breathed it in.
It seeped into her veins and silvered her soul,
awakening her anew to the wonders of night,
helping her see things she couldn’t,
helping her understand things she didn’t.

She inhaled the night like a bouquet,
Taking comfort in landscapes darkness hid,
the glaring imperfections of a man-made world
overtaken by soft purple shadows of dusk
and even softer grays of moonlight.

She wondered what was out there.
Fearful but aching to fly.
Because when she felt the wind in her face,
she could see, she could create, she could be.

She looked for rain to wash down on her,
baptize her soul with color.
So she would always have an artist’s eye,
a musician’s ear, and a poet’s soul.

Her poet’s voice urged her to write,
her inner fears held her back.
Voices within argued over her pen.
She wrestled between opening her heart
and keeping it safely closed, protected.

Allowing herself to be loved was so much work.
She wished she did not understand…
– what it felt like when a heart stops beating
– that love cannot conquer everything
– that the night does not hide everything
– that she could not fly like a bird.

copyright Nov 2016, Cynthia Sherar

Conflicted

The sun beats in through the window from outside his car and burns the skin on the back of his neck, but it feels good. He squints to keep the light from piercing his eyes as he drives south along the river.

It’s been far too long since the heat of the sun caused him to perspire; it’s been bitter cold almost as long as he can remember and now the black leather wrapped steering wheel threatens to singe his palms if he moves his hands from ten and two.

There is a part of him, buried somewhere deep inside, hidden away, something that’s been there all along and though it doesn’t show itself he knows it’s there because there are echoes of its presence. That something makes him long for the bitter cold, in spite of his desire to pull his car to the side of the road and get out, and allow the full strength of the sun’s rays to wash over his self.

It’s that bitter cold that stung his cheeks when he faced it, that crept up under his skin like a shadow and stole away any heat stashed there. So why then does he want for it, why is it that he dreams of the chill that used to slide up under his pant leg like a thief?

It’s the warmth of the sun he knows he needs, it’s the gleaming off the pavement before him that makes his chest swell with excitement making him search for it, reach for it and throw his face skyward with arms outstretched inviting it in.

Yet he feels foolish, how can it last, it’s only a fantasy, he can count on the cold to be there mostly, he doesn’t question its presence, its bite, its bitter presence. So he leans his head against the window and feels the heat from the sun pour in over his forehead, he feels a drop of perspiration roll down in front of his ear and listens as it falls to the floor and soak in to the carpet at his feet.

He closes his eyes and swears to himself for feeling conflicted.

So this is it

So this is it, I sit nervously speaking directly into the small microphone on the desk in front me, to the judge poised above me and behind his big oak dais. To my left is my attorney, she is older, appears frail to a point with short, dark crimson hair but doesn’t hesitate to speak up. To her left, my soon to be ex-wife, she is dressed for success in a sleeveless blouse and nice pants. She has a look that seems to say she is somewhere far away. She never looks at me, even when we met in the hallway before hand, when she spoke to me she looked out the fourth floor window or at the floor. Now we all face the judge, it’s a very quiet room and we wait as he flips through the divorce decree page by page. He takes a sip of water from a clear glass and the folds his hands together and leans forward, in a deep and pudgy voice he says “You two have been very respectful and mature during this process, I don’t often deal with a couple like you whom manage to get through this with sensibility.” I respect that about you two and applaud you for it.

I don’t know how to feel just then, I am proud of us, my ex-wife and me. I am beginning to falter also, I look over at Angie and I see that her eyes are full of clouds; she uses the middle part of her index finger to check her eyes in an attempt at keeping the tears at bay. This has been a long process and I have been impatient at times but mostly I have felt great sadness as I do now. I feel a sense of loss for something that has lasted twenty two years.  When she and I met she was 16 and I was 20, we married in 1992 and moved far away from her parents. We have had four children, the first one is Aspergers, extremely high functioning; she is 21 and is in college studying to be a prosthetics engineer, the other ones are also all very educated and intelligent, kind and wonderful. We must have done something right, together. I think for many years our marriage was amazing, and I think for years we struggled, especially after my tours in the military overseas in South West Asia, and we both grew apart emotionally, trying to nurture and develop our own selves through-out strain and emotional neglect.

It’s at those times that a person must reach inside and rely on their skills at surviving and adapting, and neither of us ever had those lessons as we grew up kids in the homes in which we lived. For very different reasons, both homes were very dysfunctional and I am afraid we both learned inappropriate ways of dealing with emotional struggles. That didn’t serve us well later on in our lives, in our marriage. Eventually we looked for different things to make us happy and help us go on. We concentrated on the children, they were always our main focus, albeit with different ideas and styles but still it was about the kids.

Two people can only go on so long in that way, they become less of a couple and more of a team, and when that team begins to fade and fall apart, so too does the communication and support and success of that team. And that becomes obvious to the children and that becomes hurtful and neglectful to them as well. We practiced good front stage behavior for a while, but more and more time was spent in separate dressing rooms off stage. We tried counseling and tried a few different avenues and means of treatment both as a couple and as individuals.

Finally, in the end all we had left of each other in our hearts were echoes of past times when things were good, but even those have been muddied, covered over with a thin but rank layer of regret, anger, disappointment and misery. I still love her and I always will, I think she is responsible for saving me more than a few times, I am broken and always was and from the start she knew it but saw something then that she wanted, that had value, that she was attracted to. I guess that only lasts so long until its only shadows in the fog, drifting in and out around us until we don’t even recognize it any longer and then it melts into history.

So this is it, as the judge signs off on the twentieth page of a document that legally terminates our marriage I am conflicted, feel torn apart and opened up like a gutted fish. As we walk out the front door of the Family Justice Center in the middle of downtown, surrounded by cranes and jackhammers, cars and busses and trucks, I watch as she quickly, steadily and forever walks away from me, never looking back. Lost in the crowded streets, a friend, a wife, and a consort. I have lost someone I have loved for more than twenty two years. Regardless of the circumstances, the hurt, the deception, the anger, the heart still bleeds; even whilst it runs dry it will desperately continue to beat until there is nothing left to beat for. Then standing there, empty and alone, looking for a spark, for shelter from the approaching cold and waits.

The Breaking of a Father’s Heart

When she smiles his whole world lights up and his mind goes blank,

his heart slows and he wishes all time would stop and let him see her like that forever.

Her eyes sparkle and her skin becomes radiant, when she smiles.

 

When he thinks of her when she’s gone he can’t wait to see her again,

he misses her and tries to think of reasons to text her just to say hi.

Would a man dare become a father if he knew how much his life would change,

Would he back away and try and protect his heart from breaking all the time?

Could he walk away, knowing that on the darkest days, when storms rush all around him,

And he’s cold and afraid, that his daughter can make everything disappear with a simple “hello daddy”?

 

Once committed, a father‘s heart never stops getting broken, from the day his little tiny girl gets on that big ‘ol bus, to the day she drives away all by herself in the car, he worries about her, he thinks about her.

 

He can no longer protect her, he doesn’t get to hold her hand and walk her in to school.

He can only wait for her to come home, and when she does his heart breaks all over again.

Deliverance

He stood on a gravel road awaiting the suns arrival, as the once enveloping darkness slowly retreated into the forest around him. The road disappeared around a bend before him and beyond a rise behind him. There he remained steadfast, his bare muscular arms covered in crisp, cool dew. The tiny hairs on the back of his neck erect and alert to the barely audible noises escaping the hidden places that surround him. His feet planted firmly, staking his presence in the moonless moments between the obscurities of night and eviscerating dawn. He knows not which way to turn; he beckons to his spirit to guide him, to show him the way.

He closes his eyes to hide the darkness, his mind awash with fear and trepidation. But still, unwavering he stays his place, confident with an open heart, his patience tested but unfaltering. As doubt begins to sneakily creep in from behind him, rising from the dirt and gravel like a thickening dense fog his eyes still closed tightly, he feels sudden warmth upon his brow, it slides down his cheeks and along his jaw to his neck like a silk scarf, the dew on his shoulders and arms rolls away and evaporates before it hits the ground.

The coolness of the sinister fog around his ankles slinks away quietly and when he opens his eyes his pupils recoil fast. A beautiful golden pink light floods his hazel eyes; his chest quickly rises as he breathes deeply, throwing his shoulders open and letting his head fall back mouth agape, he fills his lungs with the warm inviting air. With his arms outstretched and his fingers reaching, extended into the sunlight as it pours through the forest canopy and blankets the road in front of him he smiles and gives thanks, there is nothing more invigorating, more gracious and fulfilling as witnessing the days first light as it rushes in and chases away the darkness, shining upon the world highlighting all that is good and promising.

The Strange Presence of a Man

Every morning he awakes in a strange home, he showers in a strange bathroom, he brushes his teeth and shaves the face of a strange person, there is something recognizable about the guy staring back at him through the mirror, as though he’d known him a long time ago. He makes his coffee and eats his breakfast and goes to work. He spends 8 to 10 hours a day working at the same place he has for the last 16 years. When the business day is over, he gets into the same car he’s driven for years and travels a strange route to the strange home he goes to sleep in every night.

When he remembers things, when he smells certain things that spark echoes of experiences past, the feelings attached to those echoes, seem different, they seem almost false, like they belong to someone else. As he gets out of his car and walks to the strange mail box to get his mail, his shadow keeps step, but it is only reminiscent of his self, even his shadow seems strange. When he lies down at night, in his huge strange bed, as he closes his strange eyes he begins to dream, in which he is always standing at the helm of a small ship, like a long sailboat. He stands gripping the cold teak wheel in his hands that never feel strange in his dreams. Looking out over the bow of his craft, he can’t see through the thick fog, as he glances side to side now and again he catches glimpses of shoreline both port and starboard but never fore and aft.

In his dreams he never questions where he is going, he just keeps moving, and the fog collects on his cheeks and rolls down his neck in clean, translucent droplets before soaking into his shirt collar. The only sound being that of the otherwise still, quiet water as it washes along the hull of his boat and forms a settling wake off the stern. There is an air of patient excitement for what lies ahead in the cool, bright, enveloping whiteness, and as he turns to look back there is an unsettling notion of darkness that stains the fog left behind. There is no strangeness here on this vessel; there is no pain, no sadness, and no loneliness. There is just present time, an existential existence, a sentiment of being present for the sake of it.

And so he dreams, and when he wakes, he opens his strange eyes, sits up and stands at the window and looks out at the strange tree in the backyard. There is no boat, no vessel to quietly drift upon, and as strange noises slowly collect in his ears, so does pain and loneliness and fear followed by desire, and hope and a sense of wonder and desperation.