The writing challenge for last week’s meeting was to present either a ‘found poem’ (i.e. a section of evocative or descriptive prose from a novel or story re-worked into a poem) or some ‘found prose’ (i.e. prose inspired the words of a poem). Inspired by a poem by Nanushka, Jade Jones came up with this fabulously haunting piece…
They say the lake is haunted; that the twisted grey corpses of trees circling the edge, like a crown of mocking thorns, are inhabited by the souls of the dead. They say it is most frightening to come here at night, when the moon is a bleak scratch in the midnight sky, its reflection drowning in the shivering black water. They say you can hear the hollow cries of mourning spirits piercing the empty silence; no beast or bird disturbs the fetid air.
What they do not realize is that there is no night here, nor day. There is only an unending movement of time that has lost all meaning. And we who have been left here do not cry. Tears would require hearts, and ours have long since turned to ash.
His eyes were full of warmth and sunlight, and his laughter was liquid gold. “You are so very silly,” he murmured affectionately, his breath warm on her velvet cheek. She blushed under the intensity of his gaze and rolled away from him, staring at the too-perfect sky, praying for her heart to slow, for her senses to return. The sheer impossibility of their happiness was countered only by its reality; they were here, finally alone, and nothing could tarnish this moment. He rolled towards her, leaning over her, a magnificent silhouette. She closed her eyes.
“I love you, Emily.” His lips formed the words that her heart already knew, and her whole body flooded with the release of requited love. This was more real than anything she had ever known.
I have never tried to leave this place, but I doubt that I could. It doesn’t bother me. I have all I need here. The changing seasons do not touch this place. I have a tree I selected as my resting place, but I feel no sense of ownership. There are times when I grow tired of wandering and I return to its dark branches, allowing myself to fade into the whorls and knots, its rough heart holding me still. Sometimes I go to the water’s edge and look down at my reflection; my insubstantial shape blurring as the wind skims across the surface, my large dark eyes staring vacantly, my hair as twisted and wild as the ivy which spreads across the damp earth, reaching greedily towards the trees. I wonder if there was ever a time that I was more than this.
He ran his fingers through her hair, and expression of wonderment on his beautiful face. “Your hair is like spun gold, my darling.” She marveled at his sincerity, astonished that he was so completely in love with her, this god-like man, so strong and sure and kind. Although she could not understand how this union had come to be so, she embraced him, wrapping herself around his love, greedy, starving, desperately grateful for this divine creature who was healing her battered heart.
The others who share this place with me are few, and we do not acknowledge each other’s presence. The old woman, thin and gaunt, who drifts across the water each full moon, black tears frozen on her weathered face; the man hunched under the fallen willow, scratching madly in the dark dirt, empty eyes searching for something long since vanished; the young woman that lies on the shore, staring into the water, unmoving but for her lips which move in an endless silent prayer.
Though we are undisturbed here, this is not a place of peace.
I am filled with cold, an icy hand not borne of weather, which aches and rails against my skin from within, a pain that has become my soul’s anchor.
The first time he kissed her, the world stopped, and she was transported out of time and space to a realm of magic and beauty. It was so unexpected, and he smiled at her shocked expression. His lips were warm as embers, soft as sun-kissed roses, his face rough as a cat’s tongue. His mouth tasted salty-sweet, like a southerly breeze laced with ocean spray and iced tea. She became addicted to his kiss, hungry for more, and he became their guardian, providing only as many as were needed, but never enough to satisfy her. With time, as her desire grew, his offerings grew less, his generosity hindered by the increasing fragility of their situation, his recognition of the finite nature of their love unable to be soothed by her eager reassurances. The balance began to tip.
The air is still tonight, and the frogs announce their presence with their usual religious fervor. I feel heavy tonight, weighed down by the endlessness of this living death. Hours pass, and I find myself at the water’s edge again. A movement across the lake draws my attention, and I see a man emerge from the reeds where the path used to be. Typically, we fade when we see the living – their presence is unwelcome – but I am too tired to be bothered with his delicate sensibilities. He stretches and slaps his elbow, plagued by mosquitos. Even the bugs have abandoned me by now; I have no blood left to interest them. The man is tall and pale, his cheeks coloured with bright red splotches of exertion. His eyes are brown. He scans the clearing and his mud-coloured eyes settle on me, large in his white face. He involuntarily takes a step back, the red spots paling on his cheeks. He looks over his shoulder nervously. That’s right, strange man, run away. We do not want you here. He squints and takes a step forward.
“Hello!” he calls out, his voice trembling beneath its bravado. Human nature is a funny thing. Even in the face of fear and death, humans insist on polite formalities. He looks around, a new expression on his face, and I realize he intends to try to reach me. I turn and drift slowly back to the tree, fading into its welcoming arms.
There was no warning. They had made plans to see each other that evening, but her calls in the afternoon remained unanswered. The next day she had received a letter that simply read:
“I think it’s best that we don’t see each other anymore.”
Where there had been everything, there was suddenly nothing. The universe disintegrated in an instant, and she was terribly, absolutely alone. The pain was exquisite, so sharp it cut her throat to breathe; so crushing she could no longer stand. Her heart, newly healed and pink with rebirth, splintered into a thousand glass needles. Her shattered mind conjured his image weakly before her, and with the last of her strength, she crawled into the mirage, collapsing into his arms.