| Words In Progress - A place to hold words
Go beyond the poems to find a long-forgotten short story.
All writing found here is the original work of Jennifer A Dege and is protected under copyright 2020
Dancing through the wreckage of stolen lives
News, Tweets, YouTube footage
Songs of Despair
Elections botched, famine ignored
Open Your Eyes.
Fake News, Twisted words, Out of Context
Take it apart, piece by piece
Investigate the written truth
Delve deeper, widen your scope
Knock it down, look underneath
Open Your Eyes.
Guilt-Ridden bureaucrats stumble
Shameful policies, statements publicly bared
Hate-words, racism, division, and apartheid
Gauntlet thrown, slapping our faces.
We've been here before.
Open Your eyes.
(knock, knock, knock...)Open Up!
I was searching...You had my key
But would not turn the lock.
You backtracking, run away.
Stand, practice what you preach
Or your words signify nothing.
Don't hide behind this wooden door,
Mantle of professionalism!
Spouting sensitivity, opened minds to other possibilities.
Left us floundering
Swamped in a backlash of ideas gone haywire,
Mired in old beliefs.
Picking up bits and pieces,
Examining them in changing lights.
O! Treacherous methodology,
Counting on Time to help sort things out;
Counting on our stubborn refusal to remain in flux.
Precarious, but effective none the less.
I am still searching,
no longer for you,
nor the key I thought you held.
I think you frighten me
not so much you, as your ideas.
They are changing my whole perspective.
For the better, yes.
Change can be exhilarating, real,
will achieve Balance and Harmony -
an incredible ideology
growing in a world less and less stable.
Believe in it? You ask me to do so, but
I am afraid
I may be found lacking
but are these my own fears of myself
or my fears of the culture I grew up in?
This question is my hinge,
I had never thought of Womyn as being Powerful - except those
aberrations from the Norm
and then I always thought of Them
as those who gave in and internalized male-domination;
and thus were no different from Men.
We have been trained
to think that way.
Fragile person behind stone wall
about to slip into waters below.
He raised his hand, touched her cheek
wiping silent tears.
She tried to smile
and walk away
but he followed along the highway bridge.
He whispered through the frigid air
"just listen to the river"
his voice carrying her far
The waters gurgled below her feet
seeking to fill some deep emptiness
washing through her
and continuing downstream.
Waking from her reverie
a deep sigh from her escapes
faceless voice and whispering river
rush hour traffic crawling along
crossing the bridge takes forever friday night
a brief glance to my right
to the water below
brain slowly translating
a lifeless body floating out to sea
bobbing in the current
soul bleeding into the sunset and the stream of tailights
shouldn't someone call that in?
My forehead lay in my upturned hand
elbow pressing into my knee
leaving a redmark there
when I stand to leave you
(your eyes accuse me!)
Sitting up in the hospital bed
shaking your head slowly
side to side
traces of "No!" linger on your whitened lips
refusing again to believe what I say
(your eyes accuse me...)
Tears of grief upon my face
tears of shame fall from yours
alcohol still on your breath
knowing the truth I can not comfort you
I slip defeated from the room
Your eyes accuse me
The sun goes down
Wander the same paths
rain dripping evening tears
misty memories rolling through
crying in my sleep again
Though the road is long,
Momma's comin' home.
Thinkin' of nothin' but you,
My little one, my little giggle.
I may be tired when I get home
But we'll have time for one more story,
One last little tickle,
And a kiss goodnight.
Goodnight, Michael, goodnight.
As Time goes by
Life keeps me rolling
Down this lonely road.
I get lost but I don't
Want to turn back.
Leave me alone
Leave me be
Maybe you don't believe me,
My love for you is gone,
Gone away down
This lonely road.
Another day goes by, by, by.
I don't look back.
Turn my face to the wind.
I'm gonna be just fine
Down this lonely road.
Just another day.
Just another night.
Just rolling on away
Down this lonely road.
Fireflies dancing in the dark.
A summer breeze.
Just let me be.
Just let me be.
Let me be.
The road through life
might be a little easier
if you'd stop burning
the bridges as you cross them.
Your path is not a straight one.
It twists, turns, and doubles back
to where you once belonged.
Some part of your past
will meet you again
some day down the road
Turn around and go
pick up the pieces.
Give a wave to the child
of your yesterday;
Chase a few butterflies;
Spin like a top in the summer sun.
Cast away the shadows.
Dance all night long
Down the winding road
you are walking on.
Turn around and go
back where you belong
where you belong
A little imp of a child walked in, his small hand snug in his mother's grasp. His elven features lit up when he saw me. A wide grin revealed two new teeth since we last met for our therapy session. Easter vacation had interrupted our weekly meetings.
"Can I pick him up at quarter-to? I have a meeting at five," his mother, Carol, asked while she removed his blue, yellow, and red ski-jacket.
"Sure," I said, reaching out to tousle Stephen's hair.
"WHAT!" the little boy said, loudly. Stephen rarely spoke in a quiet voice lately, he just blurted things out. His enthusiasm about doing something corresponded directly with his volume switch. I could tell today was going to be loud as he jumped up from his mother's lap and ran to the window yelling, "FIRETRUCK, LOOK, KEN!"
His mother smiled and shook her head. "I'll see you two later," she said and slipped out the door.
"LOOK, KEN. COME SEE! HURRY!"
"What is it, Stephen? What do you see?" Catching his enthusiasm, I joined him at the window.
"IT'S A FIRETRUCK. IT'S RED," he said in one enormous breath. He was learning his colors at preschool and liked to show off.
"You're right. It is red. Do you like red?" I knelt beside Stephen and looked at the street below. Emergency vehicles were parked outside the apartment building across the narrow street.
"YYESSS! I LIKE RED!" His shout echoed in our little alcove. "RED, RED, RED, RRREDDD!" His small hand slapped the window pane sharply. "BIRDS. FLYING. I WANT TO FLY." He ran around the room, his arms outstretched pretending to soar in the wind. "I'D SWOOP DOWN AND SCOOP UP BAD PEOPLE AND DROP THEM IN THE OCEAN. YAY!"
I watched him with keen interest as he pantomimed. This was a new theme to his usual banter in our playroom. Perhaps somewhere behind it lay the reason for our therapy sessions. Stephen and I had been meeting every Monday for over four months now. Almost six months had passed since his father killed himself in the family's garage - put a bullet through his head. Stephen had been distraught, and had become increasingly withdrawn. Finally his mother felt there was more to his nightmares and periods of silence spent in the corner of his room, behind his bed. Her own grief combined with her son's was finally more than she could handle. She asked for my help. I was glad to give it.
"Stephen, who are you dropping in that ocean?"
"BAD PEOPLE, KEN. BAD PEOPLE!" He continued his circular flights about the room.
"Do you know who they are?" I asked.
He froze, for a second, as if shocked by the static build-up in the carpeting created by the stocking-footed circles he had been running. Then he grinned, his lips pressed tight over his teeth. His chin sunk down to rest on his chest and he looked up at me, slyly, through his dark, fringy lashes. "Shhhh, can't say names. Can't tell," he whispered faintly.
"You can't tell?" I ran my fingers through my hair, pulling it a little to help hold in my excitement. Stephen had just whispered.
Suddenly he jerked his head up, and looked me full in the eye. His eyes were wide open, his brow pinched with intensity. He curled his lips inward, thrust out his jaw, and held my eye. And then he turned away, whipping his small frame about, and began to wander around the room. The tenseness of his posture was gone. His aimless search brought him to the cardboard box of Lego blocks.
Stephen played quietly as children often do when left alone in a room brimming with toys but no other children with which to interact. He seemed to distance himself from me. I felt like I was no longer part of his conscious surroundings. Not once did he look up to see what I was doing in my corner of our room. I had a feeling I was not too far away from his thoughts though. His silence gave me time to make notes of our conversation. He had actually whispered. My heart accelerated again as I pondered what we had brought out of Stephen's subconscious today.
I returned to observing Stephen. On the outside he looked like a perfectly ordinary five-year old. He was dressed in blue overalls and a yellow T-shirt. You could just barely see the word "Teenage" and one mutant-turtle head above the bibs. His miniature Nikes were scruffy and a little mud-spattered from our recent respite from a blustery, frozen New York winter. Stephen's hair was neatly parted to the left side, but his bangs kept falling in his hazel eyes. He would absently brush the hanging canopy away when it interfered with his Lego building. The helicopter station I had built yesterday, my own escape from reality, was coming to life. The plastic helicopter was soaring and diving through the air propelled by Stephen's graceful arm swinging up and down as he chased it around the station.
"NNEEERROOOOM," and the helicopter dove toward the floor, shattering into thirty-seven pieces, literally. "KABOOM!" Stephen shouted when it impacted. The Lego plastic blocks scattered about the room.
The phone rang. It was eight-thirty and I had just settled back with a Miller Genuine Draft and a movie I had grabbed on the way home from the office. Carol's voice came through the phone. She sounded anxious.
"Hi, Ken. I'm sure I'm interrupting you, but...did anything, anything unusual, happen today with Stephen?"
"I haven't decided what to make of today's session yet, Carol. Is he all right?" What I said did not calm her worried voice.
"No, Ken. I would have to say he's not all right. He's sitting behind his bed again."
"Is he just sitting there? Not doing anything?" I asked quickly, wondering again about Stephen's "bad people".
"Well...he's drawing pictures..." she said. The pictures were what really worried her.
"Carol," I interrupted her, "I'll be right over." I hung up the phone and ran out the door.
She was waiting outside when I arrived at the house. Her face, illuminated by the dim porch light, was a mixture of excitement and concern. The anxiousness she felt was clearly expressed by her wrinkled forehead and slow, tense wringing of her hands. Nervously she patted away a few stray strands of hair which had escaped the barrette at the back of her neck.
"Ken, what do you think this means?" she asked, hardly waiting for me to reach the steps.
"Let's see if we can find out." I followed her through the screen door. It banged shut behind me.
Leaning on the doorframe I peered into Stephen's room. His jungle bedspread matched the curtains hanging beside his bed. Brown stuffed bears, a tawny lion, and a sleepy donkey sat atop his dresser. The lamp beside them shone down on Stephen's silky, brown head. He looked asleep, leaning against the walls of the corner.
I sat down quietly on the bed beside the window. I could see a clutter of paper surrounding his inert form tucked into the corner. Watching him to see if he would wake up, I slowly reached down to lift the closest picture. The faint rustle of the paper against the wood floor instantly brought Stephen's eyes open. He shook his head to focus. I don't think he was surprised to see me. It was hard to interpret his intense gaze.
"May I look, Stephen?" I asked softly, holding the paper but not yet looking at it.
"Yes. NO!" Suddenly confused, he hid his face in his arms folded on the top of his bony knees. And then, he said, "Yes." Quietly rocking himself, he seemed to give up, not caring at all about his drawings.
"Stephen? Stephen, you draw well." I gathered up some more of his pictures. "Do you want to talk about these?" I asked.
No response. I began to fear he was withdrawing into one of his long periods of silence again, curling up inside himself. Escaping, from something.
I swung around and then sat down beside him. I nudged the bed a little farther from the wall, and began sorting the drawings out in front of me on the floor. Trying to figure out the pattern. Hoping there was a pattern.
"Stephen? Stephen, which one comes first? Did you draw this one first?" I pointed to a picture of a boy.
He slowly raised his head, only high enough to see his drawings spread on the floor in front of him. Cautiously, shakily, he reached out and touched one. It was a picture of a man. He hastily withdrew his hand.
"Okay. And which one's next?"
We continued with this slow deliberate ordering of the drawings. Gradually I began to see the pattern. But, I needed to get Stephen to talk about his pictures.
"Stephen, can you tell me about this picture? Is this someone you know?" I looked down into his tear-streaked face. It had cost him a lot of his physical and emotional strength to draw these pictures. He was drained, his body sagged against me. I could feel him shaking his head from side to side. "Okay, we can talk about them later. You tired?"
He nodded, and his eyes closed heavily. I carefully picked him up and placed him on the bed, gently resting his head on the pillow.
"I can tuck him in," Carol said from the door. I didn't know how long she had been there. "There's some fresh coffee in the kitchen, if you'd like some," she whispered.
"Yeah. Thanks." I stood looking down at Stephen for a moment longer. "He's really wiped out."
I took the drawings with me to the kitchen. Carol had always made good coffee, and it helped me unwind. The hell she was going through - her husband's death, the trauma her son was going through - I didn't know how she held herself together.
"He's sound asleep." Carol came to sit across the table from me.
We sat in silence, sipping from our mugs. It was a silence we had shared before. The house was quiet. The humming of the refrigerator echoed the whirl of thoughts in my head.
"Carol, I think Stephen should come in tomorrow. I think we're getting somewhere. Finally," I said.
She was looking at the pictures hesitantly, like she didn't really want to see them. Their meaning was clear to both of us. The real question was did Stephen understand what it was that he had drawn.
"Tomorrow?" Carol asked absently.
"Yes, the sooner we can get him to talk about these the sooner I think he'll recover. He needs to tell his story, to get it out. He can't keep this bottled up any longer. Lord knows, how long he has already."
Carol seemed to wilt. Resting her forehead in her palm, she said, "You're right. Tomorrow. What time?"
"I'll be in by nine. We can do it then..." I stopped when I saw tears silently sliding down her cheek. I walked over to her and put my arms around her shoulders, my cheek resting on her hair. "We're almost through this, Carol. Hang in there."
"I hope you're right, Ken. God, I hope you're right. I want my son whole again." A heavy sigh escaped her and she leaned back into my embrace. She needed me to stay. But, I knew I couldn't. Not yet. I couldn't escape the darkness in her eyes, the shadow that Stephen was fighting, or the darkness in my heart for the man who had done this to them. I left her there, in the kitchen with her son's drawings.
The sun streamed in the windows of the playroom. Stephen was sitting quietly in the alcove, absently twirling a Cookie Monster by one arm. While he sat there, preoccupied, I had arranged his drawings which Carol had brought. At first, I had placed them in the order Stephen and I had worked out the night before. Then I moved a couple out of order and put one up-side-down. Stephen was watching me. He curled his lips inward against his teeth, and brushed his bangs out of his eyes. He was waiting. The first move was to be mine, I guessed.
"Are you ready, Stephen?" I sat down at the table facing him.
Nodding slowly he jumped down from the window seat. He approached the table, and studied the pictures. Silently, he rearranged them into proper sequence again.
I pointed to the first one, "Who is this, Stephen?" I kept my voice low, trying to sound reassuring.
He looked up at me then, his eyebrows drawn together. "DADDY," he said loud and distinctly. "MY DADDY," with a nod of his head for emphasis.
"And who is this?" I pointed to the next one.
"You drew a picture of you and your Dad?" I asked.
"I drew my DADDY, AND THEN me," he said, emphasizing some words.
"Is this one a picture of your room at home?"
"YES." He stared at the drawing. "THAT'S WHERE..." He stopped. He walked around to the other side of the table, away from me. He leaned across it, resting his elbows and hands on the table top. "I didn't...I didn't want..." His breath started coming quickly, panting almost, and then he whispered, "I told him, no more. I don't want to, Daddy." With a choked sob, he ran to the corner of our playroom, away from the table and his drawings. He circled the room, trailing the fingers of his right hand against the wall as he went around. Suddenly he stopped and leaned unsteadily against the wall. "Ken?"
"What is it, Stephen?" I had walked over and knelt beside him. "What happened? What did he want you to do?" I was afraid to touch him. He looked so fragile, and so vulnerable. So close to the edge.
Tears streamed down his reddened face, red with shame. He collapsed in a heap. "He touched my..." he began. "He put...it hurt." He buried his face in his hands.
"It's going to be okay, Stephen. You can tell me, anything." I had to reach him. He was pulling away from me, taking himself somewhere, somewhere safe. Safer than our playroom had just become. It was no longer a haven of toys. The real world had just entered. And Stephen didn't want it there.
He looked up at me with a pained and haunted look in his eyes. He began pulling his bangs down over his eyes, running his thumb down over his nose and across his small lips. His eyes were trying to say what he couldn't put into words. The words were bad. The words had killed his father. He couldn't say them again. He couldn't tell his father to stop, again.
Stephen crawled over to the corner behind the table. For a while he sat with his legs crossed, rocking, back and forth, back and forth.
"I don't want to talk anymore," he whispered faintly, slowly pausing between each word. Like he had rehearsed them. He didn't look at me. He sat there with his arms wrapped tightly around his ankles, his cheek tight to his knees, rocking himself to some secret tempo. He remained in the corner, locked within himself.
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