Icarus

Suppose you were told that you could fly. Would you believe it? Let’s say you even woke up one morning and found that you had wings. Big, glossy wings, with feathers of all the right kinds and shapes and colors that you could wish for. Let us even assume that as you walked around your bedroom, or maybe your kitchen, you could feel those wings and gained control over them. You could flex them, shift them, even open and spread them wide if you have enough room. Your wingspan, we can assume, would be wider than you are tall, so you may knock over your grandmother’s favorite flower vase and break it, but then you may discover how useful your wings are in sweeping glass up. No pesky little shards left on the floor with those powerful feathers getting into every nook and cranny between the tiles.
Are you convinced of your wings yet? Can you hold their image strongly in your mind? Can you feel the bones in your back adjusting to the new weight that is suddenly set on them? Good. Now, suppose you were told that you could fly. These new wings of yours aren’t only decorative, as you may have thought, but they can actually support your weight when you leap off the top floor of the tallest building you know of. Would you protest? Would you say – Surely not, for humankind has no wings and cannot fly, this is a well established fact! Or would you, without considering it too much, take a drive to the nearest high rise, or maybe go right up to your own roof, spread your wings, look into the sunlight, and leap?
What if you knew there was a safety net spread out beneath you, just in case it didn’t work? Of course, nothing is full proof, and you might say that even if you really can fly, the ability might disappear in a few seconds once you’re not even over the net anymore. Alright, I understand your concerns. They’re valid. After all, no one ever told you, and you certainly never expected it yourself, that you would one day sprout wings and be told that you could fly. Say I promise to have four cars drive around with a net stretched between them so that they could catch you no matter where you drift to? Would that be enough, do you think, to make you jump off that ledge?
I can see your concern. It’s true, there are many risks to flying. There are other birds in the air who know their business there much better than you do. They may laugh at your flapping efforts or they might squawk when they see how big and ungainly the rest of your body is. Then there is the danger of severe sunburn – although that’s easily fixable if you wear long sleeves and make sure to rub a lot of sunscreen on your face. Perhaps you don’t think you’ll be able to navigate. It’s true, bird’s eye view is very different than seeing things from the ground. Suddenly, things are spread out below you, and you may feel that things are getting metaphorical as you fly around, above and superior to all the pesky human who can’t do what you’re doing. You don’t want to turn into Icarus, after all.
Of course, you must remember that if you can fly, that means others may be able to as well. Ah, you’d forgotten that, hadn’t you? I’m sorry, I can see how disappointed you are. And just when you were getting excited too. It’s a shame, yes, but you must remember that you can’t possibly be the only one who’s suddenly sprouted wings. Think of how large Earth is! True, perhaps it’s not as big as some other planets, but it’s quite big enough in our terms, don’t you think? There are enough people on the face of it to make it statistically very unlikely that you’d be the only one who was able to fly.
I’ve gotten rather sidetracked, haven’t I? The first question still stands. What if you were told that you could fly? Would you do it? Or would you sever your wings off in fear and then forever hide the stubby feathers and protruding bones by wearing big sweatshirts and promising that you never really liked swimming anyway? It would be a sad thing to live with severed wings. Almost worse than trying to fly and plummeting to the ground. At least, if you try it, you’ll be buried with the splendor of those glossy wings, and I promise that no one will forget you.

Thin Disguise

The old building was cold, its concrete walls never absorbing the day’s sunlight. A small heater that sat in the middle of the room, its metal bars glowing a fiery, hellish red but spreading little enough heat beyond the foot or two of air right around it. The owner of the little room sat huddled by it, shirtless, with a sweatshirt draped over his back. The warmth on his chest almost felt as if there was another body there, pressed close to his.

He knew he should be working, spewing word after word onto the blank screen, crafting some sort of pseudo-intelligent babble that his dissertation adviser would eat up. A disturbing image of turds wrapped inside scones came to his mind; it seemed oddly fitting, though nauseatingly easy to imagine. He put his fingers up to the heater and marveled, as if he were four again, at the way the light shone right through his fingers, making the nails shine with the blood moving under it. The thought of blood always made him begin to hear his pulse knocking through his ears.

Her pulse had always been discernible in her stomach, right where his hand rested when they slept, curled up, their two pairs of cold feet trying to soothe each other in vain. That had been a long time ago. There had been others in his bed since, but they either didn’t spend the night or didn’t fit into the curve of his body quite as well. Besides, they’d all wanted to be the small spoon, and he often needed to be hugged himself, comforted in sleep by the presence of someone at his back. It was one of his only child-like traits. Otherwise, he was often too grown-up, he was told. Even in college, he’d never been as free as he should have been, as easy in himself.

The balcony door blew open and a sharp wind stung him. Getting up, his sweatshirt dropped to the floor, and he felt assaulted as he stepped over the heater, into the harsh breeze. He had to fight to close the door.

Combination Lock

Three turns to the right. Stop at “Guilt.”

Two turns to the left. Stop at “Self-loathing.”

One turn to the right. Stop at “Guilt for the narcissism of self-loathing.”

Open the safe. Inside, you will find another, small safe.

Three turns to the right. Stop at “Anger.”

Two turns to the left. Stop at “Impatience.”

One turn to the right. Stop at “Self loathing for feeling angry and impatient.”

Open the safe. This time, you’ll find a drawstring bag inside. Open it, and out will flow dozens of small, egg-sized capsules. Each is clear, with a folded up piece of paper inside of it. You can open the capsules look at the writing on the papers if you like. One will say “Happiness.” Another will say “Misery.” Another will say “Oddball.” Another will say “Unique.”

There’s something else in the cloth bag. If you reach right to the bottom of it, you’ll find a needle. The moment you try to pull it out, you’ll find the cloth bag unraveling. But if you leave the needle in place, you’ll be able to put all the capsules back inside. Then you can draw the strings shut tight, and even tie them. You can put the bag inside the first safe, and put that back inside the second. You know the combination now, so it’s no trouble going in and retrieving the bag whenever you like.

But what if you lock both those safes and throw them into an ecologically correct trash heap? Melt them down, use the metal to make… not bullets or guns, no… not spearheads either… and not jail-bars… how about wrought iron railings, delicate and beautiful, the kind you can train vines and flowers to grow around? Then you can still feel safe, but you don’t have to look at a cage or a weapon. You can’t use the railings against yourself, because you can step over them and make them beautiful. Forget the flowers – even without them, they’re beautiful. Just wait, see if other people admire them. I’ll bet you they will.

What about the bag, you ask? Well, that’s still with you, isn’t it? Tie it to your belt. Let people look into it sometimes. Let the people you love go in deeper, and sometimes maybe take a risk with a stranger. Don’t worry, they can’t steal anything. Even if they take one of those capsules in there, a new one will pop back instead of it. But more importantly, spend some time with that bag yourself. Look into it. Sort it out. See what belongs and what doesn’t. See, this is the magic about it – if anyone else tries to take something away, it’ll pop right back. But if you give it to them willingly or get rid of it yourself, it’s gone for good.

Careful, though. Don’t throw away “Compassion,” or “Love,” or even “Fear.” Don’t let yourself throw all of it away, both good and bad. Keep most of it. Just sort out things like “Pointless Guilt” and “Worthlessness” and you’ll have a good start going.

But remember the combination. If you don’t know how to open that first safe, you’ll never get anywhere. What if the combination changes, you ask? Ah, well, if it does, I trust you’ll be able to listen to that little click-click when the wheel hits the right place, so you’ll crack it in no time. Just make sure to try.

If Life is Indeed a Cabaret

If life is indeed a cabaret,

Then how is it that every day,

We simply make our weary way,

From sunup ’til in bed we lay?

**

If the world is merely a stage,

Then why work so hard for wage?

And why then do we fear to age,

If elders are supposedly sage?

**

If we’re meant to see ourselves as flowers,

That bloom and wilt after some hours,

Then why does Death make us cower?

And why does his nearness make us sour?

**

But let us say life’s a show,

One that is unnaturally slow,

And if we accept there’ll be some woe,

Does it make it any easier to go?

**

No, it doesn’t, that I’ll say!

For if life is good, we’d like to stay.

And even if it’s not, that’s still okay,

Death will come sometime, anyway.

Man and Wolf

There’s a full moon tonight.
It’s a werewolf moon.
It means that things are changing,
They’ll come to get you soon.
**
The man becomes the beast.
The violence is exposed.
Do you have some sympathy?
He’ll say it’s not what he chose.
**
The moon hides behind the clouds,
She’s playing hide and seek.
The man is howling in the woods,
The werewolf tries to speak.
**
The werewolf’s nature is its own,
Survival, eat and mate.
The man has passions, anger, guilt,
He thinks he has a fate.
**
The werewolf curls up quietly,
His pack is fast asleep.
The man is climbing up the trees,
Or digging six-foot deep.
**
The moon rises full again.
The werewolf’s gone afar.
But man has stayed right where he was,
His heart like stone, like tar.

A Monarch’s Responsibilities

History is a vast and incomprehensible mystery to me in many ways. We have facts about things that have happened in the past – we have dates, records of events, paintings reproducing the faces involved in those events, poems and diaries devoted to giving opinions and preserving what happened in a biased manner. We have all these things. Mystery, to some people, seems like a wide-open book, its contents there for us to look through, sift for what interests us, and indulge ourselves in knowledge of old.

I don’t feel this way. In my opinion, history is full of so much that we don’t know and so much that I wish I could know. True, we know when Martin Luther began to speak and write about his emotions about being a monk and part of the Catholic Church. In his instance, we can find quite a lot of emotional and sentimental writings from his own pen, or maybe quill, and we can see into his mind, as far as he lets us.

But what about others? What about the farmers and the spinners and the dye-makers that England had in such profusion in the sixteenth century? What were the children running barefoot through the streets of London, so much smaller than it is today, thinking? What games were they playing? What was the man smuggling illegal documents from Europe into the English Empire thinking as he worked? Was he scared for his life or merely waiting to get paid so he could go home to his wife and child? What were the nuns, sequestered in their cloisters, talking about? How did they speak to their young students, and how did they infuse them with a love and a belief for the divine? Through fear? Through love? Through simply offering worship as a fact of life?

And if these so-called simple people’s lives aren’t interesting enough for historians to dwell on – well then, what about the monarchs? How could Henry VIII hold such power in his hands and play with it so lightly at times? What did Katherine of Aragon feel as she was condemned? We can guess, surely, but how can we know? What of Elizabeth? How did she feel when she was sought after for marriage through the years? Did she decide on her own to remain a single ruler in order to maintain a stable throne? Did she, perhaps, not find men pleasing in the manner she would have been expected to? Had she fallen in love with someone who never returned her love or never could?

It’s bad enough, thinking of the power that politicians and governments hold today. At least it’s distributed power, and is more or less given by the people. But monarchs… They were born. Some of them believed they were chosen by divinity to be kings or queens. They held so much power in their cupped hands, that they’d let some of it run through their fingers to those sitting at their feet, just waiting for a pearl or jewel to drop from those mighty hands. I can’t imagine how such responsibility could be held without driving the holder mad with indecision, worry, guilt. Such are the things that the annals of history can’t reveal to us. Thoughts, emotions, private sighs of elation or grief.

Stone

Grey stone worn thin
By the thousands who’ve
Walked upon it.
Innocent children,
Unaware of the hurt they inflict.
Adolescents,
In all their subconscious sadism,
Damaging a-purpose.
Apologetic adults,
Guilt nibbling at the edges of their beings,
Though always pushed away
By the knowledge of necessity.

Grey stone worn thin-
Wordless shout emitting from every crack,
Soundless scream of pain at each step,
Enduring,
Forever enduring,
With no will or way to end the suffering.
Comfort comes from one source only-
The familiarity of the pain.