Poetry: S. D. Stewart
Before, we sat and stared out at the trees. Making dinner and making conversation. Food and shelter, the clothes upon my back, and a reason to spend the day. For so many time-charged tokens fall through unseen holes in our pockets, clinking along the pavement to the gutter. Unspent days elude us, rationed out in rolls packed tight by the machinery we treat as benign. To disengage is to fail in the eyes of those around us. But to walk away sews up those holes, turns our pockets inside out in defiance. In dreams I sink my hands into a deep sea of wild minutes and hours, their flashing sides unmarked by currency’s greasy brand. They swim free and I slip from the shore into their midst, shake off my rusty shackles and float away into the light.
The way we used to be, upside down and inside out, our thoughts strewn across an empty room. I am no longer part of these things. The ones we always pretend did not exist. All I have is now, an elastic band of time I’m not sure how far to stretch. Knowing only that there is no way to test its strength in isolation. And there is a whole lot of life left out there, reflected in eyes, squeezed into veins, running along skin. And so many ways to find it, at least long enough to know you held it. Some let go then, others don’t, and what makes up the difference is where I blank out and see stars.
Time moves on and I look around to see everyone waiting, wondering if the next step is up or down. She guesses that there’s something more. But it’s the finding it that tricks us all. I have laid down my arms before many a battle, and for that have left with scars in places only I know. At the end of one such battle, I stood in a wedge of life within a wider field of death. There I watched new lives awash in the wonder of discovery. We marveled at each other and I in my disbelief grew soft and still. For despite the asphalt jaws slavering and gnashing around it, this place provided a haven for what I love. Facing every day that which I did not ask for, that which has been cast upon me, that which was fashioned before me, my throat grows tight and I want to flee. But instead I sit and trace, unsteady, around the blurry borders of my muddled thoughts. I struggle to crane my neck and stretch myself out, out, just far enough out beyond the band of thieves on my heels. I try to head for the open places, away from the corners, away from the blacktop. I try, but I don’t always succeed. When I finally step out into the yellow light, I pause on the bridge and hear the kingfisher rattle. I wait and watch for my reward. He shoots up and out then, a sleek blue bullet streaking across the tracks and back down under the bridge on the other side, his wild cries splintering the air around me.
The woodpecker swoops in through the raindrops, scattering the crowd of noisy house finches at the feeder. He jabs at them with his vicious beak, red and white head bobbing back and forth in staccato movements. After swallowing a few seeds, he unclamps himself from the rim of the feeder and flies off to a nearby tree. I will hammer on this tree awhile, he thinks, for those damn finches are just too much. The finches, meanwhile, swarm back in nonplussed, and return to gobbling seed, posturing and pecking at each other as the rain beads up on their feathered backs.