poem for god
The Woman in Silent Tears
everything beautiful bleeds
5 August 2014
Et in Arcadio Ego
David Albert Solberg
Sorry, We're Closed
Older than Our Bodies
Amorphous Object &
Sundays in Hudson
Fox and Geese
Love in Winter
David Albert Solberg
I Have Made My Own Soul Suffer
A Notice to My Mailman
The gentle sound of piano playing breaks the silence. My sister’s nimble fingers are caressing the keys, coaxing out a sweet melody. The notes ring out, sharp and cold, and it sounds just a little bit sad, like snow falling on dying grass. Her small hands mourn the loss of summer, for they are unable to give voice to her sorrow in any other way but by the pressing of those polished white keys, made from brittle plastic. She hunches over the piano, eyes riveted to the pages of black notes that delineate instruction; her stare contrasts against her deviation from the markings on the page as her practiced hands transition into something else, some-thing far more beautiful—words that are only meant to be spoken o nce. The melody wavers, and the last note waits to fall, as if it afraid to end and watch us succumb to the eerie quiet that always comes at the end of everything.
I think I can feel what she feels, almost as if it’s a tangible thing that I can touch with my own hands. It feels like ice, smooth and cold, chipping away at the rough and pitted surface of a rock face, slowly revealing what lies beneath the flawed surface. But my sister’s music cannot silence the winter: even it speaks of sorrow. And so we hang in limbo, lamenting the death of the old year, the new one yet to be born with the emergence of a spring that I fear is never coming. My heart sinks with the solstice.
I turn to the window pane and watch as the sun fights its way from behind the clouds. Slowly it reveals itself, the daylight uneclipsed by shadows, shining down as it filters through the window. Savoring its warmth, I close my eyes so as to forget everything else around me. But my action is the impetus for change; the clouds roll back in protest, closing over the sun like the jaws of an enormous steel trap. The world is once again cast into darkness. My light has been swallowed whole.
Outside the snow falls while my little brother and sister play. Their bright coats stand in sharp contrast to the pale white of the outside world. They stick out their tongues to catch the falling crystals, and they seem unbothered when they miss. With a grin I can just barely make out, my little brother forms an imperfect snowball with his gloved hands. He winds up and throws it at my sister, the ball landing on her cheek with a thud that I cannot hear. The snow clumps in her brown hair and she scrunches her face, as if she is about to cry. Then she reaches down and forms a snowball of her own, and launches it at him with a venge-ance. I watch her warm brown eyes fill with the childish fury that I knew so well when I was that little girl. Her strike is successful, and the snowball bursts against the smooth fabric of his coat and slides down to the earth in a shower of flurries. He blinks, less frightened than surprised by the sheer strength with which she retaliated. Full out war ensues.
I watch them fight for a while, their two bodies flailing awkwardly, lacking the gracefulness of fiction. If you stand outside when it snows and look up, everything appears larger and more interconnected. The falling crystals display their delicate patterns, landing on your face like a gentle kiss goodbye before they melt, destroyed by the heat of your skin. If you look only at the snowflakes, for a moment they are beautiful. But then you see the trees with their barren branches outstretched in agony, reaching toward you like nightmarish creatures from a child’s dream. And now the cold begins to eat away at you and your hands and feet go numb, then the rest of you as the poison seeps through your veins. So how can you know that you’re alive? Remember this: any desire to stand outside and look up, to see beauty even for an instant, withers like the flowers in gardens that are now buried
Part of me wants to join them; I want to throw snowballs, catch snowflakes, make a snowman that smiles with uneven pebble eyes and a crooked carrot nose. But the cold is permeating through the glass panes, and it wraps its arms around me like prison bars of twisted iron that I am not strong enough to break. I shiver.
The cold makes my bones ache, bites at my nose and hands, numbs my toes. It wraps its fingers in my hair, yanking with a force that only the wind can muster—I am crushed by the weight of hopelessness, for I am forever awaiting spring. And every time the leaves begin to fall in autumn, the cold leeches away their color. The breath of the season snaps them from their branches, and you can hear them break: life passes into death. And when they tumble down in a shower of crimson, orange and spotted yellow, they become what they were always destined to be, and they rot in the damp that destroys their spirit. It’s like watching flames dying in the fireplace. For at first they burn vividly, tantalizingly bright, swaying and dancing as they devour log after log until there is nothing left to feed them. Then they grow tired and their colors fade from blue to a deep red, until eventually settling on a pale yellow; they gnaw at the charred remains of what once was part of a living body. Finally, after hours of struggling for breath, their light is extinguished, and whatever remained of their warmth dies with it.
The changing seasons are always at war, desperate to conquer one another. The old always bows to the young, for they are unable to compete with the strength of youth. Winter’s victory tastes of frost, and it hangs its banners from every rooftop and gutter drain so as to proclaim its triumph over autumn. It saps the color from the blue sky and the cold sinks deep into the earth, siphoning away the strength of living things and leaving the bittersweet stench of decay. Stale air invades every corner of every residence, until it resembles a dungeon buried deep below the earth. The very thought of prison cells hidden at the recesses of mountains causes panic; the walls seem to be caving in, crushed by the force of the pressing earth. Winter is tightening its grip so that I suffocate. The cold is like a tomb, a shallow grave that I dread to lie in. “ You should go outside,” my mother says. She means well, and I know how troubling this must appear: I’m staring out the window as the day slips away. Even the cat has grown tired of watching the snow swirl beyond the window. She has abandoned her post at my feet and is now sleeping, green eyes closed while she radiates warmth. Her body is curled up on the sofa beneath the picture of the storm at sea, and she vibrates with the strength of every purr. She doesn’t know that I’m watching her; she is instead lost in a blissful slumber that eludes me while I think.
Glancing out the window again, I can see that my brother and sister have given up the fight and are now building a snowman. Already there is one enormous ball in the middle of the yard, and they are trying to heave a second on top of it, but the snow keeps crumbling in their gloved hands and they have to start all over again. I don’t want to watch any longer, but somehow I can’t turn away.
A chickadee lands on the edge of our birdfeeder, picking up a dark sunflower seed in its beak. It quickly flits away. Suddenly a squirrel appears, clutching the bark with its tiny paws, nose quivering. Startled, a goldfinch takes flight and the squirrel is able to steal seeds from the cylindrical feeder, tossing extras as it goes. A junco lands on the ground and begins to peck at the seeds that are now scattered, unafraid of the intrepid squirrel that has made its way on top of the feeder and is now prying at the lid. The squirrel succeeds in its aims and the lid falls to the ground. The junco, too, takes flight.
My brother and sister have finished their snowman, complete with stick arms that poke out at large angles. My sister makes her way toward the house, her face flushed almost as pink as her coat. She intends to rifle through the refrigerator in search of a carrot to use as a nose. She makes slow progress through the deepening snow, determined to complete her mission. I turn away before she reaches
I wish that I could just curl up in my warm bed, submerged in blissful darkness to wait out the season. Even the remnants of my childhood fears cannot deter me; I still have a fear of dark creatures with yellowed eyes and jagged teeth staring out of closets and small spaces, their claw-like hands reaching out to touch me. Their voices sound like metal pipes crashing down on gravel, scraping against fragments of rock, harsh and enticing. They are seductive, like wailing sirens. They are everything I fear: cold and dark, brimming with the unknown.
But the cold and gray dominate everything, pushing back all other fears in favor of an interminable depression that I cannot escape. Even if I had the will to try I could not; these chains constrict my movements and so bind me. I cannot see them, but I can feel their weight dragging me down. I can do nothing but watch as the world continues to move without me. I am a passive spectator to life. It’s like staring down an endless expanse of pavement—there’s nothing else to see. Just a never-ending stretch of gray that is colder than stone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Madeleine Richey is a junior at the University of Saint Francis where she is studying history. She hopes to become a writer and humanitarian aid worker while traveling the world. Immediately after college she plans to live abroad and return to Africa in order to tell the stories of the people of Uganda. Her belief is that the best stories have an element of truth and portray the raw joy and sorrow of being human.