Sleepless Night

a short story by Carolyn Morris
([email]amethyzt213 [at] yahoo [dot] com[/email])

The rain beat softly on the pavement outside. It carried the scent of the ocean and the flowers in the bluffs it had crossed to get to the girl’s window. But she did not notice it. Her senses, once attuned to the sights and sounds of the world around her, had grown dulled. Perhaps it was age that had done it, closing her eyes to the brilliance she used to see in everything. More likely it was the man lying sprawled out beside her in bed, as usual taking up as much room as possible, as if even in sleep he wanted to consume and stifle her. She had grown dead to the pain, the aching, the horrible nothingness. Feeling nothing was worse than feeling something. She had found this out over the course of the years, slowly, gradually, and without realizing that her life and soul were being diminished.

Then one night she awoke to the sound of the rain and lie staring at the ceiling. Despite the darkness, she could see well enough to count the few remaining stars attached to it. They had once been constellations but they had fallen one by one, the old adhesive losing the battle with the powdery white plaster. Looking at the sad, sparse bits of glowing green, she was struck by the memory of real stars. She supposed they must still be there, right outside her window if she cared to look. But look she hadn’t. Not for quite some time. The bits of light that used to be her friends, her guide, her twinkling lovers, had gone unnoticed in recent years. The eyes once open to the world had glossed over, veiled by a mist of foggy indifference bred of … who knows.

The worst thing about the nothingness was that she did not know from whence it came or how to make it go back. In a simple world, people long for things, acknowledge the desire, and do their best to satisfy it. In a simple world, there are no choices. In this world, people sometimes create their own barriers to fulfillment. The biggest obstacles are those we painstakingly build for ourselves, stone by massive, cold, solid stone. They are at once the easiest and the hardest to tear down, because the fight is against oneself.

The girl glanced at the warm figure next to her, appreciating the heat because it protected against the chill from without, while grimly knowing that the real coldness lied within. He looked so innocent sleeping there, the poor child. In sleep she could almost forgive him. She could almost remember how they came to be there in the first place. Almost. Looking at him, she tried one last time to summon the feeling she once knew — the quickening of the heart, the warm chill down her spine, the irresistible urge to smile.

But those things were long gone, vanished into the wind after one too many insults or cold shoulders or demands or … so many things. Too hard to explain, too depressing to recall. In movies and in books writers portray love as an unquenchable passion, a soul-shaking experience, a lovely sickness. The girl, cynical by nature, was tempted to brush these off as merely the whims of fancy, brought into being by writers as lonely as herself.

But she knew better. Her spirit had not always been dead. It had once danced to a music too beautiful to comprehend. Her eyes had once shone with the light that painters have tried to capture and failed. She had known times when the world really did stand still or melted away, or whatever poetic term one prefers, and all that was left was herself and another. She knew that real love existed out there, and that people were in it, and that it was beyond words.

The rain fell, and her eyes slowly closed. It was too late for such dreams and recollections. Memories are useless. Her shy spirit retreated again and she cuddled up to the warmth of the boy she no longer loved, and never really had. The glorious stars, wind, and flowers would have to wait until a more convenient time. God forbid she should be late to work in the morning.

Previous publications: Literary Brothel (under pen name “Aine Brigit”)

Michael Crowley

[b]I Once Knew a Woman[/b]

I once knew a woman as sharp
as a spike, (or is it a tack?)
and as hard as nails,
who thought she could fly
and blazed like a meteor
-no that’s not right-
sparkled like those sparklers
that are so hard to light.
I studied her body,
would read it like a book.
She had moveable parts and
parts that stood still
as the wind in the trees
with places to kiss
and down on her arms.
And this was a time when
women had hair and were sharp
as a tack or that razor blade
you always played with
and always got cut
and the blood would be much
darker than the red you imagine.

I remember liking that woman
like the force of the tide.
We would walk around
in the city at night
or go for a ride and you
could smoke then and it was
great to walk and smoke and make words,
blow rings at the neon lights.
I once knew a woman
a shout in the street,
or a sound that makes you
suddenly turn and check
over your shoulder
for what ever might be there,
but never is,
but you’re left with a little
unnamable fear.
I once knew a woman like that.

[b]The Lord Said[/b]

It was easier before
there were so many of them.
You could keep tabs,
help out a Roman or Greek,
check in with the Chosen.
They’d slice up their sheep,
roll some rocks around
and scream at the sky.
I’d give them green pastures and sleep.

But now it’s totally out of control.
Who can keep up?
I mean there’s what’s left
of the birds of the air
and lilies of the field
to consider.
And if I turn my back
to intervene in Andromeda,
they set out to slaughter
one another
and send me the souls
of their children
as if I had room in my heart
or any tears left.

[b]Remembrance Day (U.K.)[/b]

I don’t remember much.
The way the sunlight played
on red brick walls
with painted white window frames.
The dry mouth and search
for another cigarette,
the studied garden, the goldenrod,
the purple dead men’s fingers,
the whistling howl of winter wind.

It’s not much is it?
Your hair, your eyes,
your scent have sunk
into a miasma of leaf mold
and rotting shapes.
Of war I know nothing,
bodies on TV, Friday night Teach-Ins.
We’d drive high to the protest.

Now is all there is –
floating time told
by the phases of the moon,
blown like smoke exhaled
or like a leaf falls
and is lost in the crowd,
a sea of fallen leaves.

by Michael Crowley (c)2001
([email]miklcrowly [at] hotmail [dot] com[/email])

Joni Hendry


Dawn’s resurrecting fire
extends fingers of light,
embracing my hollow room with its grace.

Even though I’m roused by your kiss
at the rivers dark I pause.
The hunger for your touch rises with the gloom,
raw disconnected lament.

No one hears wistful sighs
as night shadows seep into cracks
of the remote, black womb of earth.

I give the wind silver tokens,
highlighting dust particles that burn
in marble chambers of my heart,
removing traces of untold passion.

Hallucination, the simplicity of your presence,
a scent on satin sheets,
imagined moments the rising sun exhausts.

[b]Summer’s demise[/b]

A calm settles over me as I stroll
through once vibrant woods.
Frost now clings to spindled fingers,
their jewels of amber and gold
ride the air like ghosts,
blending with withered blooms,
their spirits spent.

Twilight, ends smile of day.
Blood-red streaks
trace across gray sky
Beads of moonlight gather crystals reflection.
Brilliance of increscent star
teases shivering green.
The chill of the crisp breeze
seeps through me,
I shudder.

Listening to trees that groan like deformed men,
each waiting for the blanket of warmth
and dreaming of the day when they dress
in warm sunshine once more.

[b]Captive Waltz[/b]

I mourn
as unborn spirits of spring
toss restlessly in crystals wombs
I wait for the spin
at the wheel of seasons.

Gone are flowers,
debutantes in frilly ball gowns
lifting faces that charm honey bees: now eunuchs.

I tremble at the silence
of frigid landscape,
winter’s white mask,
screen of life.

The swirl of amber leaves
waltz a tired green dance,
a chilled murmur
echoes through naked trees.

New beginnings shiver
singing “Auld Lang Syne”
into the bleak hours
of winter’s piercing embrace.

by Joni Hendry (c)2001
([email]caddis11 [at] hotmail [dot] com[/email])

[b]Editor’s Note:[/b] “Captive Waltz” first appeared in Rising Star; “Summer’s demise” first appeared in Beginnings.

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