Carved Innocence

“Carve my face just like it is, okay?” Juliet turned to see how her hair would look piled up on top of her head in a messy knot. The result was unappealing so she let her long, dark locks tumble back down to cover her back.

When she took her eyes off the riveting image of herself, she was almost surprised by the other presence in the room. She was so used to speaking to herself, that it was hard to remember how to act when she did have company.

“Of course, my lady. I would dare not insult you by creating a lesser image than the one you see before you in the glass.” This courtly nonsense was exactly what any poor artist who lived on the whims of the rich was supposed to say.

Juliet didn’t smile. She wouldn’t smile unless absolutely delighted. The uncles that raised her had taught her that facial expressions could cause lines in older age, and they strictly forbade them. Juliet was their prize, their secret weapon, growing into womanhood in relative secrecy and almost absolute privacy in order to be unleashed upon the world at precisely the right moment. Until she was out of their hands – and, if they had their way, she never would be, not entirely – she would do as they said and would be rewarded and punished accordingly.

The artist was one of her rewards. Juliet knew that she was beautiful. But her uncles didn’t know that she was growing shrewd, locked as she was inside the walls of the estate they’d allocated to her. She asked questions of the servants and bribed or charmed them to answer her despite their fears. She discovered how she could get what she wanted. In time, her intelligence might prove dangerous to her kin, and she might become a force to be reckoned with in quite a different way than her uncles had planned for.

But now, having just celebrated her fourteenth birthday, Juliet was getting a statue carved of her. Her uncles had been surprised. “Not a portrait?” they’d asked. “No,” she’d answered. “A statue. Of me in robes. Like a wise woman of the old days.” When they’d begun to complain about the cost of such an endeavor, she’d pouted, frowned, and wrinkled her brow. They had become alarmed, remembering the tantrums she’d had as a little girl and had quickly agreed. “Alright then,” they’d said. “As a birthday gift. How’s that?” She had let her face slacken, thanked them politely, and had walked away softly, demonstrating her perfect posture and the pleasing way her hair swayed back and forth lightly with every step.

Now the artist was taking some sketches of her. Juliet had been worried, at first, that her uncles had gotten confused or had tried to foist a portrait on her after all, but the artist had reassured her. “Ah, no, fair lady, I need the sketches in order to be able to work even when I am not in your presence. Have you not heard about artists and their muses? We do not always work at the most convenient of times.”

Juliet had spent her morning doing what she always did. She read poetry aloud in front of the mirror, listening to the resonance of her voice and practicing to make the tones more pleasing. She sat at the harp and played it for a while, eyes wide open, not getting lost in the music as she’d read in books that some people did. She couldn’t get lost in anything, not because the artist was there, but because she’d been raised to be aware of herself at every moment. She always thought of the way she held herself, moved, expressed her physicality in all its aspects.

The only time she could get lost was when she gazed in the mirror. Only when she saw that she was doing everything correctly and that there would be no lashes, no punishments, no chastising and shaming words from her masters – only then was she able to relax into herself.

It was when Juliet was gazing in the mirror and the weight came off her shoulders that the artist saw the human being in her. Before that, she had seemed like an automaton, a puppet being moved on strings. The artist began to sketch furiously, terrified of losing the one glimpse of this girl whose innocence was never allowed to flourish.

Next moment, Juliet heard the call from one of her masters and the weight of her uncles, their friends and their enemies seemed to sit back on her so that her posture became once more an act of will.

Wet-War

Clifford had drawn his gun. Things were bad if he’d reached that point: he hated drawing his gun unless it was absolutely necessary. Guns meant needing to aim. Guns could slip out of his grasp if he was distracted. The grenades attached to his belt were his most preferred weapon, but he’d run out of the lot of them. He knew he’d been hasty and he cursed himself for a fool. He should have known better than to waste the grenades all at once.

There was no going back now, however. Clifford crept down the alleyway he was in. There was a tall wooden fence on one side of him and red bricks belonging to the big building next to him on the other side. Approaching from the alleyway, he thought to himself, could be a good move or a bad one. Hopefully, the one he was hunting wouldn’t think to ambush him quietly from the rear. Clifford was sure his nemesis hadn’t seen him enter the alleyway in the first place, and so he believed that the possibility of being surprised wasn’t a probable one. This calmed him, and he held tightly onto his gun as he tried to make as little noise as possible.

This was the final showdown between him and his enemy. It had to be. The two of them had been fighting this war for years, and it had gotten the both of them in some serious trouble in their lives. They had agreed that this was the last fight they would have. Clifford fingered the scar on his lip and remembered how he’d gotten it the last time he’d come face to face in a struggle with the enemy. He hoped to avoid such injuries this time around. It wasn’t easy explaining to the authorities how he’d come by his scratches and bruises.

Suddenly, a wild yell split the still summer air. Clifford registered a shadow moving quickly towards him around the corner of the building. He burst out of the alleyway, and without pausing to aim carefully, squeezed the trigger on his gun. He felt, in the same instant, a grenade burst at his feet and he slipped and fell, still trying as hard as he could to keep the gun steady.

“Clifford! Jasper!” Another yell, the familiar sound of the authorities, broke through the fighters concentration. A woman, Authority herself, burst out of the red-brick house. She placed her hands on her hips and looked down her nose. “I told the both of you that today is NOT the day for one of your water wars! We have company for dinner, and I need you both inside, now.

“Aw, but Mom!” Clifford whined. “We were just getting started!”

“If you were just getting started, why are there burst water-balloons all over the backyard?” His mother shot him a look that could have frozen stone. “Inside, I said. I mean it.”

Clifford looked at his nemesis, his brother Jasper, and sighed. “This isn’t over,” he muttered. Jasper grinned, good-natured, and answered “We could have kept going if you hadn’t wasted all your water balloons right at first – then Mom wouldn’t have noticed a thing.” With an evil gleam of humor in his eyes, he skipped into the house behind his mother.

Clifford shouldered his big water-gun [it had three tanks that could be loaded!] and followed Jasper into the house. At least, he thought, I didn’t fall and split my lip this time. Mom being mad is better than three stitches at the hospital.

“Innocense”

Left in a meadow where flowers always bloom
A little girl dances forever,
Playing with her dolls and teddy bears and blankies.
She never cries, never sighs, never needs a hug,
She’s perfectly content knowing that everything,
Everything is fine. All is well.
Sometimes she pauses,
Raises her eyes to the heavens,
And tries to grasp at a forgotten memory,
-Or perhaps a vision-
Of a darker girl,
A dangerous, wild and wonderful girl.
But the feeling of something forgotten fades,
And the girl lives on obliviously
In her meadow of innocence.

I wrote this poem… sometime. I don’t actually remember when, but I stumbled across it while going through some of my old poems and I rather liked the imagery, so I thought I’d post it.