In another valley, the root
of nostalgia, even now
from this distance,
to pearls of blood,
the heart about to turn
hard, like the knob
of a door left ajar.
Written by Maria Benet, of Alembic.
I remember the first lie I told. My friend Garrett and I wanted to walk to the raspberry fields across from our two houses. I told my mother that his mother would come with us, so we could go alone. We walked the thirty feet to the field and then, slowly, up between the rows. Dry straw lay flat on the raised beds. It was late spring. In August, the bushes would grow high enough to block us from the street, and we would skim the first berries, reaching up, before the pickers came.
We walked between the rows in separate channels and stopped halfway to the pond. We looked back along the compressed earth. I picked up a stick and scraped straw away. We had the afternoon to ourselves. I wanted to leave.
Lying has grown more complicated since then. I remember that young lie because I don’t tell that kind now. I write stories, and so I don’t pretend that alternate realities are real. These days, I lie by silence. I lie by not asking and not objecting. It’s easy to say ‘I love you’ and hard to say ‘I’m afraid for you’. It’s easy to hold someone; it’s hard to say how much it means that they will hold me.
Garrett and I are still friends. He lives two thousand miles away, and he’s engaged to a woman I don’t know. We talk about occupation and objectivism. We have cared for each other a long time, and we see each other not often enough. In December, we walked past the raspberry fields in a mist that hid the pond. A lighted window hung in the haze of the woods, and the air was warm if we kept moving.
We were alone for the only time this visit. I asked what he did in his free time. He told me he wanted to start an evening of conversations at his apartment, once a month. That was all we had time for. He called me later on my birthday. He gave me a bottle of raspberry wine.
Written by Katherine Abbott of Spring Farm Almanac.
Why do you resist me?
the man asks. The woman braids
He touches her shoulder,
the small of her back. It’s good
to trust me, he says.
The woman frowns at her
Slowly she unweaves
the braid, lifts her hair,
Written by SB of Watermark.
Half-truths, glosses, white lies, are these so harmful? I missed instruction on how to cover my trails with deflections. My father told me outright that I lacked tact; learning tact has been a lifelong aim. I blurt out what I hoped to hide. I’m not cruel or insensitive, but I am unable to talk behind anyone’s back without ultimately telling them what I said. I don’t sound believable when I’m trying to cover my real responses. Nor can I string anyone along. Forget jobs like sales, getting anyone to sign a dubious contract, pretending to be more knowledgeable than I am. I’m not a good businesswoman. Worse, though, I’m gullible; if I could deceive then I’d be wise to deception when it comes my way. I’m not. Is this inability to lie a positive attribute? Okay, it makes me trustworthy, but tactless and gullible.
But, oh, I am a master at hiding! If I don’t want to be found I can throw a harem’s bounty of veils up. And become invisible by disappearing into the walls or landscape. You won’t find me if we’re playing a game. I know exactly where your blind spot is, and I’ll stay there, hovering in your every move, out of view. With fears of being constrained in a relationship, I’ve developed an arsenal of ways to delicately avoid potential dalliances by becoming impossible to find. I smile and disappear like the Cheshire cat. In the pre- and post-marriage years, before becoming a half-centurion, there was often a small pack of men in varying stages of pursuit, phoning, wanting to meet for coffee, movies, dates, and I became adept at dancing a dance of flickering appearances and disappearing. Wrapping your invisibility cloak around you is sometimes necessary if you don’t want to hurt anyone.
Nowadays, I can be openly friendly, and not be followed home. No silent sitting in a dark house while a man knocks endlessly on my door, nor any hiding behind voice or email anymore. But have I been cognizant enough of the fragility of the desiring self, especially since my natural honesty borders on tactlessness? I hope I gave enough care and love to those who found their way to me. I’ve finally hung invisibility in the cedar closet of memory, it was a flamenco whirl of pursuit and escape. Instead I’ve disappeared into that smiling aging woman passing you by.
Written by Brenda Clews of Rubies in Crystal.
My mother knows I’m here,
down behind the front seat in the dark space
where people in the back seat put their feet,
with gritty bits and half a rotting leaf
and a sweet paper sticking to my hand.
I just fit in here, hidden, squeezed in tight.
My father doesn’t know I’m here;
just off the London train smelling of the Times,
opening the car door tiredly climbing in –
he doesn’t know I’m here, and she pretends.
Crouching in my little place I wait,
my tummy quivering with a secret laugh.
I’ll wait until we’re driving up the hill
I’ll wait until I can’t wait any more
and then I’ll pop up just behind his head
and laugh out loud into his shiny ear
and listen to his marvellous surprise
‘Good heavens! I didn’t know that you were there!’
by Polly Blackley
Your words fall on me
out of a dark sky
under a street lamp
out of nowhere
Hitting my face
bursting on my skin
my eyelids, my open mouth
until I am drenched,
shivering to the bone.
Written by Whiskey River
All winter long, I keep the thermostat turned down as low as possible to conserve oil. I dress like a homeless person – overcoat, knit cap, fingerless gloves to permit typing. The cold creeps in around doors and windows: ah, what healthy air, I tell myself. No need to worry about the build-up of air-borne toxins from carpet out-gassing in this old cottage.
By nine-thirty or ten at night, the warming effect of a full belly has begun to wear off, and the cold begins to insinuate itself through the five layers of clothing on my upper body and the jeans and thermal underwear below. My fingers slowly grow numb. But how handy, really, to have something like this compelling me go to bed on time! Otherwise my book might tempt me to stay up too late.
So the thermostat gets turned down even lower – Take that, President Cheney! – and I change into bedclothes and crawl under a heavy pile of blankets and quilts. It’s a little difficult to turn over, but really, all that tossing and turning I do in the warmer months isn’t good for my back.
I lie in the darkness feeling very snug and secure in my little nest, warming my hands by pressing them against my chest and under my armpits. The contact of cold and warm feels delicious – a thing I’ve enjoyed ever since I was a kid. I had the darkest, coldest bedroom in the house, and grew very acclimated to it over the years. I recall with some nostalgia being small enough to crawl all the way under the covers in my twin bed, where I’d thrust my bare feet into the coldest corners. The initial bite of cold would send shivers down my spine.
When there were no more cold pockets to explore, sometimes I’d turn around and around under the covers until I could no longer remember which end of the bed was which, like a turtle lost in its own shell. Then I’d stop and lie still, trying to guess, and poke my head tentatively toward where I thought the pillow should be.
It was wonderful to be wrong: I’d savor the feeling of disorientation as long as I could. The room and everything beyond it would slowly pivot back into place, but for one long moment I’d feel myself cut loose from my moorings, like a spaceship drifting near absolute zero, free from the influence of any local star.
Written by Dave Bonta of Via Negativa.