Sometimes I feel like murdering them, squashing them under my feet, watching letters bleed out, separated from the word they are attached to.
Other times, I place them in an incubator, checking in on them from time to time.
Some go in a special box. I wear the key around my neck.
On occasion, words sting me, knowing just how to punch my buttons, which aren’t that hard to find, since I come equipped with all kinds of buttons, switches, and on and offs.
A few have lost their way, trying to find the morning from the depths of night.
Others become feral. I’ve been told not to feed them, though I’m too sensitive. Now they’re hopelessly dependent upon me.
I’ve broken up with a few. They either get mad, sad, or crazy. A few have broken up with me. I either get mad, sad, or crazy.
Really though, I can’t complain. All in all, they’re pretty solid, clearing things up when communication gets hazy, commanding peoples’ attention when they’re not reading me.
Actually, I think, I kind of like them. I know you do too. (But don’t say it out loud. They have humongous egos.)
The river is high for winter, but it’s still the water I know, its muddy banks, dirty shore, lucid waves. Swollen, I can’t follow it to the lighthouse. I cut through brambles, to the trail, stepping on spongy flora forming a false carpet, made of branches, dried leaves, and grasses, hiding the ground, hiding everything. Curling around fallen trees, the carpet creates deep catacombs. I don’t know why, I’m searching for the dead, that kid that went missing, that woman who hasn’t been heard from in years, bones, fingers, humanity. All colors of the years here have melted into a gray mass. Anyone could be lost here, everyone is, perhaps, lost here, in plain sight. Every now and then I see the ground. I hear the river, its slow pace.
I know why some jump into the river, inside the hidden current, upstream, from the city
To become lost, to lose themselves, to become gray like old flora, that’s the last place to hide.
There are freshwater clam shells strewn along the river’s shore, eaten by birds. Clams filter everything, then so must the birds. And it’s me, filtering…through the gray. There’s not really a way to get lost here, only a way to become hidden. The river’s been higher, flooded the brambles, the soft carpet and all things that have fallen for countless seasons. I stop my search, though I know someone is lost… somewhere… in here. If only I could lift the carpet, look underneath. Afterwards, I would place it back down, exactly how I found it. The trail is the shortest way, always on solid ground, a few feet higher than the river, a little muddy.
I reach the lighthouse.
(Image: Mt. St. Helens from the Columbia River)
There’s so many speaking, not wanting to give up the slough.
They’ve had it for the entire winter… to themselves
Chickadees, common nighthawks, grebes, sneaky rails and coots.
The marsh, still cold…wet…wants to capture my clumsy steps.
Grasses hide the outer rim of the seeping lake
Then mud, a good dousing…slick…brown as cake frosting.
My movements tell the story of who I am…speech patterns.
Geese and ducks…angry…bat the water with their wings.
I can’t help it…I’m looking for spring…yes…still.
It sprinkles…the wind cold enough to numb my fingers.
Peregrine Falcons eye me with suspicion…they draw circles in the sky.
It’s quiet in the updrafts…they watch me plea with the talkers.
On freezing nights when the river settles, the reflection of city lights is clearer than the real lights. She views this better on the bridge, her winter pilgrimage.
Colder than the air, she grips its handrail. Her hands pull away only at the moment she can’t feel them. It’s that pain she’s after, of her hands warming up after they’ve become numb, filled with little sparkles, needles, the slow throb back to movement.
But the lights found on the river’s surface hold a deeper meaning than pain for her.
She trusts the reflections more than real lights. They have a glimmer that’s missing from the real thing. She knows this not to be true. She knows the side of reflection is fiction, but, in a way, she believes that her wishing, a wishing so deep, so intense, begins to create an alternate reality.
She thinks… No. She knows there are millions of others just like her, wishing as she does. And with that power, alternative realities are coming into being, piece by piece, wish by wish.
Someday she’ll attempt to reach the reflections.
For now, she will settle for a hand on the railing, looking…looking…until she’s numb…again.
She’s on her tiptoes.
One can hear the electrical wires in the rain near the scattered towns.
Your voice is still under those lines, in one town or another, poking around old man bars.
You wanted to see where the forest ditched the highway, where the grid no longer gripped feral ferns and moss.
We picnicked next to the river, sandwiches and wine. The rain had stopped, left to playing only with leaves.
You were scared of the forest, its sounds. The very thing you thought you protected.
I never told you, the road is hidden on the other side underneath the trees, behind the wild rhododendron.
Traffic is far and few between, a crawl, especially after winter’s scarring of pavement.
I can see you, running for the parking lot, back to the towns, the wires, fear in your eyes.
Sometimes, to be honest, I wish I could be as scared as you.
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