the virtue of tenderness

Sometimes I wonder if you remember the snow globe

that I broke in your room when I was four years old,

curious, and desperate to see the world it held.

 

I had cried for hours that day,

Feeling such guilt and shame at my clumsy fingertips

as they attempted to pull it from your shelves.

 

It was a glorious shatter.

 

Afraid as I was, you were not mad.

You wanted to know why it had happened,

and when you did,

you told me that

you would have taken it down for me if I had asked.

 

It’s no wonder that your favorite things nowadays

revolve around

understanding.

 

***

 

You and I were born wildflowers in a field of thorns.

 

I’d like to understand the mindset of a man,

the twists and turns of ego,

rage.

 

I can feel some of it within me,

but I was born tender.

 

I cannot understand how gifted scarves

can turn to nooses

in mere moments.

 

Nor can I understand the piercing pain I felt last December.

 

When you break, I break.

 

I suppose.

 

***

 

When they ask you why your body wafts roses –

your face lavender, lemon, and honeydew,

please remember that their words mean nothing.

 

You were spawned from the soil of the Garden of Eden,

the fruits of Eve’s labors.

 

You were born into this world to be tender,

so please,

when they come questioning,

do not let the snakes that bind your wrists control you.

 

The image of Minerva that hangs from a chain around your neck

cannot match your strength,

your vigor.

 

You are the culmination of the cosmos,

the epitome of

 

Woman.

 

Hold that title with pride,

for your scars show that you have earned it.

 

You have bled,

wept,

rejoiced,

loved,

understood,

and for this;

 

You deserve nothing less than the world itself.

the fishermen (anthony & koffi, year 3000)

It was early June, just before the ship arrived, and Anthony sat with his legs outstretched, looking out into the vast expanse of water before him. Fish blew bubbles that floated to the top of the water just below Anthony’s feet. He was expecting Corrine and Matilda soon, but knew they were taking their time. Their falling in love was something that Anthony had noticed only recently, and he was filled with joy at the idea of his childhood friends together. Anthony stood and walked to the end of the wharf.

“Beautiful day,” he said, smiling at the other fishermen.

“Oh, absolutely. I hear the ship is coming from somewhere along the southern coast,” said a gruff-looking fisherman. The southern coast referred to the area that was once known as South Africa. With the fall of banks and country lines in 2502, people from all over the world began to migrate to wherever they wished. Some visited, and some stayed for the entirety of their lives. Anthony’s family had migrated from the area that was once known as Sicily, Italy, when he was only three years old. It was here, in the area that was once San Francisco, that seventeen-year-old Anthony had found his work.

His father worked as a jeweler, and his mother as a painter. The three lived in a beautiful white house just across the bay, looking onto where it fed into the ocean. They owned two dogs by the names of Piper and Charlotte, and let them run in the large backyard. On warm nights, the family spent hours together in the yard, eating dinner, playing games, and laughing together. Anthony’s parents were surprised when Anthony told them what he felt called to do, as they had raised him around so many forms of art. They supported him nonetheless, and were incredibly proud of the selfless and giving individual that they had raised. Maybe the love within his family was what drove him to do what he did for his town.

As Anthony gazed across the bay, remembering his days spent on the wharf with his parents, a large ship began to pull into the bay. It chugged slowly through the water, and Anthony sensed the palpable anticipation in the air. Everyone in the town had been waiting for this day for months, preparing packages of fresh fish and vegetables, blankets, and organizing living quarters. People gathered around the wharf to greet the newcomers. Anthony spotted Corinne and Matilda in the distance, wandering towards the wharf, hands intertwined. He smiled, feeling the connections to the people around him, the love in the air.

When the ship was anchored and docked, citizens that had gathered around the wharf began cheering. Hordes of people began crossing the gangway of the ship, and as each one passed, Anthony greeted them with a smile and handed them a package of fresh fish. People were coming from all over the world- a beautiful woman wearing a blue sari stopped to introduce herself. She wore winged eyeliner and tall combat boots, and Anthony admired the juxtaposition of her style. He loved the hipster cliché of it. Among the people that crossed the gangway, several stood out in Anthony’s eyes. A young man with dark skin and piercing blue eyes stopped to greet him. His ears were pierced in many places, and he wore a silver hoop through his left eyebrow. He introduced himself as Koffi, and stated that he had arrived from the area that was once Ghana. He wore the colors of his family in his clothing, and he beamed with excitement as he looked around. Anthony noticed that Kofif’s eyes nearly matched the sky, and glistened when he spoke.

As Koffi left the wharf with his friends that had traveled with him, he stopped to turn back and look out across the vast expanse of water. He laid down in the grass. He felt everything – the warmth of the sun on his skin, the light breeze that whispered in his ears. He heard the birds as they called to one another. In the distance, he heard the laughter of two young women. This is home, he thought. And he almost loved everything.

the sun and the sky (corinne & matilda, year 3000)

“Tell me a story.”

 

Corrine and Matilda laid side by side in the grass, their pinkies barely touching. They had planned to go to the wharf to visit the fishermen, but had stopped to take in the view. The sky was remarkably clear and blue, not a cloud in sight. Looking up at the sky, Corrine noticed that the birds were singing to one another. On her left, a robin chirped, and on her right, a small woodpecker responded. The thought of such different birds connecting in such a way brought a smile to her face. She thought of Matilda. Just the sight of her brought warmth to her heart in a way that she had never thought possible.

“What kind of a story?” Corrine inquired, rolling over to look at Matilda. As she did this, a lock of her golden hair loosened itself from behind her ear and fell in front of her face. As Matilda reached up to help, Corrine felt a flush of warmth rush to her cheeks. This was the first time of many that Matilda would do this. It was in her nature to help others, and Corrine was no exception.

“Tell me about Matty,” Matilda stated, smiling in a crooked sort of way. She had a way of melting Corrine with her smile. Her brown skin glistened, the sunlight reflecting off the blue eyeshadow on her eyelids. She had let go of all reservations with her personal style. She wore her hair large and curly, favored bell-bottom jeans over other pants, and she always adorned her hands with rings given to her by her loved ones. Among her many rings, however, she did have a favorite. She wore the thin silver band on her left index finger. It was simple, but it was Corrine who found it while swimming in the bay.

“Matty was a ridiculous kid that I met when I was five. She was wearing a blue skirt, a blue shirt, blue tights, and blue sneakers. She told me that she wanted to be as happy as the sky. And that was the day that she became my best friend, because that same day I was dressed head to toe in yellow because I wanted to be as happy as the sun.”

”I guess that Corry was just as ridiculous,” Matilda said, laughing in her sing-song way, remembering how life used to be for the two of them. Their hands intertwined as they looked at one another. Although their concentration never strayed from the vastness of each other’s eyes, they could smell the grass below them. They could hear the birds singing to one another from across the treetops. They could feel the rays of sunlight filtering down onto their skin. Out of the corner of their eyes, they could see the clear, blue sky. They almost loved everything.

when marnie ran

“She came into this world screaming, you know. The nurses said that they’d never heard one scream as loud as she had.”

Marnie leaned back in her seat. She felt the faux red leather supporting her body. It was past 2am, and she was beginning to grow wary. She looked around. She looked at the plant, standing solemnly by the windowsill. She looked at the stools at the bar, standing like soldiers at attention, one after the other. She looked at the florescent sign in the window. Open, it said. Florescent lighting never did her any good. Neither did dairy, though she had chosen to leave the cheese on her sandwich. The grumbling of her stomach told her that she’d made a mistake, but it was the last thing that she cared about.

“I’m glad that you called me,” Elias said, reaching out to take Marnie’s hand. He wore a denim jacket over his rumpled band tee shirt. It was worn through on the elbows, and Marnie noticed the new pins on his pockets. It had been a long time since she’d seen him, but she hadn’t known who else to call but him. A part of her still loved him, even though things could never have worked.

“I’m sorry for waking you.”

“Really, it’s no problem. I brought some of your things.” Even after all this time, Elias kept a spare key to Marnie’s apartment. She’d been such a danger to herself before he left that he needed to be sure that he could get to her if need be. He still loved her too, in a sense.

Marnie looked out the window and onto the street. Glistening with raindrops, the pavement shone under the streetlights as if it had been painted just so for her enjoyment. She loved the rain. She loved the smell it brought. She loved the constant rat-tat-tat on the skylight in her apartment. She loved the lonely charm of it all. She sighed, looking back at Elias.

“I got to look at her hands before they took her away. I’ve never seen something so wonderful in my life. She had these tiny fingernails – can you believe that? Fingernails. What was so remarkable, though, was the age. They were so wrinkled that I could’ve mistaken them for an old woman’s if I hadn’t seen them myself. I know you don’t believe in this stuff, and I know you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I don’t think that this was her first time here. Maybe she just wasn’t ready to be back yet.”

“I believe you. I’m sure I would’ve felt the same way.” He squeezed her hand, wanting desperately to reassure her. He knew that he may never see her again, and this was the best he could do.

“They were going to name her Evangeline, after June’s grandmother. A few weeks ago, I’d knitted a sweater with the name on it. It’s still in my living room,” she paused to gaze once more out the window and sip at her water. “I just don’t understand how it’s possible to be here and then not be. She was here. I heard her from the other room, and just like that, she was gone.”

“Were you alone?”

“Jack was there, but he was too busy working to notice anything. Even when everyone started running. I swear, some people never stop to notice anything, even when they need to.” She was crying now, tears trickling down the left side of her face. She thought of June. June. June, who she had known her whole life, who had always wanted to be a mother. She was 19 when she had decided on the name, Evangeline, and 22 when the little girl began to grow. No, she hadn’t meant for it to be so early, but she decided she could love her just the same. Her father had built a crib out of oak, and her mother stitched blankets from old clothes. It wasn’t much, but it would be enough for Evangeline.

“I should be going soon,” Marnie said, tilting her head as she looked at Elias. “I’m sorry.”

“I’ll miss you.” He began pulling things from his satchel; a blue sweater that she always wore, an envelope full of money that she had been afraid to put in the bank, and a box that held the watch from her grandfather. He set the items on the table, one by one, and Marnie began to collect them.

“I love you, E. Thank you.”

She stood up, and began to walk towards the door, passing the stool-shaped soldiers at the bar and the lonely house plant. She turned around to look at Elias once more, with his square glasses, blonde curly hair, and striking blue eyes.

“It never ceases to amaze me that in a world of 7 billion people, not a single one can slow down, even for a second. I don’t want to be a human being if that’s what it means to be one.”

With that, she was gone. Elias sat comatose in the red faux leather booth. He remembered all of the reasons he had left. He remembered all of the reasons that he’d kept her key. All reasons led to him answering the phone in the middle of the night. She needed others, though she’d never admit it. Marnie loved hard and fast, but she never stayed long.

With a jolt, he remembered Emma, who could have woken in the night to an empty bed. He stood; he didn’t want to keep her waiting.

haikus for girls i’ve loved

Afternoons spent of dirty floors

stained carpets and rain on windshields

you pretended to cry

I pretended to love you

 

I was never told

you can’t make homes

out of people

 

You taught me

to climb barbed wire

without scratching my palms

 

You said you’d met god

at 3am

and he hated you

 

I could write novels

about each one

of your faces

 

How peculiar it is

to love nothing

and everything

all at once

 

How nice it is to be wanted

she thought

even at such a cost