the Tower of Babel,
how confused He was by us
created in His image
a patchwork of faults
stitched together not by skin and bones
but by each other.
is your thread.”
We seemed to say
as we reached for the sky,
not for God,
but for what was Next.
For even as we looked up
we looked to each other,
the commonalities between us
not the noises we made
but the blood
between our hearts and veins
this meat between us, our language,
the only thing that God couldn’t feel,
maybe through his son, by proxy, maybe.
And it’s insecurity, isn’t it?
The thing that makes what’s powerful
take from what’s not?
All these noises between us
barely the spray
on the tide of how I know you
with still waters running deep
beyond what I can see,
beyond what I can comprehend.
this tower between you and me,
built so high
that even God can see,
and like Babel before it
that if we need each other so much
what need is left for He?
And I look to you,
from a world away,
as we search each other
in nervous moments
from iris’ to candles, dancing,
glancing off our conversations
because we don’t speak with our words
It’s not our vowels and fricatives
but our hearts,
this blood and meat,
the only thing we have
that could make
but confusion He did bring,
and I just can’t stop
So here we are, in the shadow of God,
unable to find each other,
unable to see,
for something beyond Him,
something between You and Me.
“Forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past.”
Buddy Wakefield wrote that,
wrote it and said it
over and over
a once in a generation sentence
skipping on top of the collective consciousness
in the break we all take when everything makes sense
and skipping away
when we’re swallowed up again by madness.
And it’s not just that he said it
it’s that he meant it
for in all of us there burns
the true core of creativity
and where I wear mine like an over coat
he wears his like tears on his eyelashes
causing spectrums to take flight
in a ROYGBIV
daring everybody who sees him
to stare into his madness and forgive
not just him
forgiveness like shotgun shells
buck-shooting blindly hitting everyone
who’s ever hurt you
past, present and maybe
until all that there may be
is beauty, blind
like justice after cross examination
and weighed by a Jury of Your Peers
who are actually your peers,
because there are real hurts
and they will betray you
tipping the scales
until even Justice
has to open her eyes
to keep from falling.
Because Justice may be blind
but I’m not
and I have been torn apart by this bitterness
but forgiveness is
the release of all hope for a better past
and I loved my past
with my heart and soul
and what broke the mold
of every bit of me
wasn’t what happened
but what I lost
and so I mounted a cross
as I died
killed by Greater Forces
I held on to the portion
of the pain at my wrists
where the nails went in
and I forgot one thing:
it wasn’t you, you see
that made me climb up there in the first place.
It was me.
So I’m choosing
to take off my insanity
like an over coat
all of this dread
until my tears flow like Buddy’s
out of my eyes and onto my lashes
for the whole world to see
and in the ROYGBIV of my crazy
I will create a spectrum of expression
like buck shot
full of forgiveness
until I’ve hit everyone and everything who’s ever wronged me
filling them with light
so I can finally be free
of all this darkness
I’ve been carrying inside of me.
Because it’s not worth it,
This distance between you and me?
A friend of mine remarked
that I haven’t written any poetry
in a while.
“It’s because I’m happy.”
Like God snapped a finger
and suddenly I was no longer broken.
How beautiful, the balm of time.
How terrible, that the trenches of depression
and creativity so often begin and end with each other.
Her nose is upturned,
which I like if I’m honest.
She talks with her hands,
exploding to life
like an idea past a murder of crows.
She looks at him
her sterling blues
too focused on the back of his mind
(the dark parts)
where desire and romance meet.
The intensity of her laughter
pulls the pane of glass
we all keep
between what we receive
and what we’re willing to give
so what he sees of her is her, unfiltered.
She plays absently with the bun
she’s tied in her hair,
nervous, in love.
That I could see through his eyes,
even for a moment.
By: Douglas W. Nyback
For Paris. For the world.
“Do you hear the people sing? Say, do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes…Tomorrow comes!”
“It’s a beautiful number.” she thinks as the curtain falls and the applause rolls through the theatre like thunder. “How here at the end, even the dead sing so beautifully.” And she knows, Katy does, that even now before the curtain call the air is alive with the buzzing and whirring of thousands of megabytes of data. The applause dies a bit more than it used to and just a bit faster because we say thank you differently now, don’t we? Not to the people in front of us, but to all the people that weren’t here.
She shakes her head, making her way into the wings, a small smile playing across her lips. A stage hand passes her phone to her and the screen is alive with hundreds of little blips and dings. She thinks, “How odd that they feel closer to me on this box than out there in that room.”
Suddenly, the applause dies, a little at first, then completely. All the actors around her look up, the sudden silence exposing their heavy breathing left over from the finale.
“What’s going on—?” She asks.
But all she has to do is look down and she knows.
“A hundred people in a theatre… My God.”
And the curtain rises, as curtains do, the cast laid bare to the audience than bore them. And nobody speaks, they just stare at each other, the beautiful relationship they shared moments ago hanging in the air in the no man’s land between what was and what is now. There exists between an audience and their cast an unspoken contract, it’s very simple.
The cast says, “Everything we put before you tonight is real.”
And the audience says, “Ok.”
So cleanly does this contract break, Katy swears she can hear the snap. “And now,” she thinks, “we’re just people in a room.” That’s when the tears come, first from her cast mates and then the audience. She stares out at them, deep in the throes of immense emotional shock, six hundred people with their souls laid bare, face to face with the absolute extreme of what humans can do to other humans. Six hundred people, their faces buried not in their hands but in their phones, tears dropping on touch screens like rain, blurring the billions of instant condolences from millions, millions of miles away.
“Oh…” she says, feeling her own face and finding it dry. And under her breath she says, “We are so far away from each other.”
So she speaks, her voice amplified by the stage microphones, echoing in this old hall like an angel, “Hey.”
But no one responds, their faces are still buried.
“Hey. Hello! Hey! LOOK UP!” And they do, because her voice has power, it resonates and something inside her has changed.
“Everything we put before you tonight is real.” She says.
And the audience says, “Ok.”
Katy looks over to her Marius, his young face flushed, his eyes red with sorrow and rage. “I’m a crier.” She says.
“I’m a crier, right? I cry all the time?”
“You guess? I cry at, like, everything. I cried at a video of a kitten scaring a tiger right before we went on tonight, like, literally right before we stepped onto the stage. I had to hand my phone off to our stage manager, didn’t I?” She looks over to Rebecca, the Stage Manager who nods through her tears. “I can’t go five minutes without tearing up, I am constantly moved.”
She pauses. “Why aren’t I crying?” She looks over at Eric, the beautiful father of two who plays Valjean, “Eric? Why can’t I cry?”
“I…I don’t know, love.”
Katy looks out over all those faces, her brilliant blue eyes shining, almost seeming to glow as she takes in all six hundred people, hanging on to her for dear life, hanging on because if, even for a few minutes she can be more real to them than the atrocities of the world then somehow they might be able to make it through the night.
And she speaks, as we must in such times, with no filter between her heart and her throat:
“I was in love with a man once— sorry, a boy— because we were young, maybe sixteen at the time…God, we were so young. How does that happen? How do fourteen years go by like that?” But though she holds the audience’s attention, they have no answers for her, only questions. “We were doing a show, it was a World War II play about kids going off to war and it wasn’t good, but it was good for what it was, you know? We all needed it, that show, I wouldn’t be here without it. We were all away from our parents, staying in college dorms, rehearsing all day and singing and falling in love all night. We were free, in the way only kids can be free, we were so…free. And there was Alex, playing this young kid and all he wants is adventure and a family but he has to go to war. And he does. Go to war, I mean. And he dies, as soldier do. And he comes back as a ghost, like a lot of us did tonight, and he sings about how he dreamed of adventure once but the world cared nothing for his dreams, not really, and now all he is is the shadow of a cause. And I used to sneak to the back of the theatre on matinees to watch him do that bit, because he looked so hollow, so empty, in his eyes was only darkness and it was because of that darkness that I loved him. Because how could such darkness exist in a boy so young if not for an ocean of light?”
She smiles and the theatre smiles with her.
“I loved him, with my whole heart and soul I loved him. We’d steal into each others rooms past lights out and we’d stay up all night kissing and talking of our lives, together and apart, all the shows we’d do, all the people we’d touch and we knew we’d caught it, lightning in a bottle. The greatest love our youths would allow, for once youth is gone, love changes, it grows and diminishes all at once.”
She pauses for a moment, bittersweet as she’s ever been.
“And all the while we knew we had a time limit. And time did what time does, it brought us steadily into the future and the future was goodbye.”
Realization dawns in her eyes, “And that was it,” she says, “the moment I became a crier.” Her lips spread into a smile and that smile is a glass of water in a desert, “I saw his face as he left me. He always had such an honest face, creased with thought and worry, but honest. I had never felt so truly loved, nor have I ever since.”
She shrugs, “It was just so pure,” she marvels, “how he loved me. Like he would love me forever. So I cried. I cried harder than I’d ever cried before because it is only our capacity to feel love that allows for our sorrows. So, you beautiful people, you lights, look up at each other and love each other, then hold each other in your sorrow and the more you hurt, the more you’ll love and then we can all leave here together.”
And with that she climbs down off the stage, breaking the contract and once again becoming human. And as a human, Katy holds on to the first human she can, and then that human holds another, and then another, and then another until the whole theatre is one human, one heart loving and hurting as one. It’s only then, for Katy, that the tears come, for now she’s not only herself crying, she’s this theatre, she’s the world, all that have ever been and all that will ever be.
And as her tears fall, she thinks, “Ever the dead sing so beautifully.”
Here is the truth:
Each life is a pebble,
breaching the water
when the ripples are strong.
How we impact each other,
the lives we touch.
It isn’t culture that does this
nor religion or belief.
For a dog isn’t a dog
when it’s rabid.
Darkness casts a shadow, doesn’t it?
To swallow up the light.
But shadow is
as it’s always been
growing to fade
and passing again
for light can exist without darkness
but darkness cannot without light.
And here is the truth:
Each life is a pebble,
some pebbles made great,
boulders that fall
not just for those that knew them
but greater to all.
Their ripples are oceans
connecting us all
that we should cry out
“I am you and you were me.”
for we were never one
but always all
and so, bound together,
may we never fall.
I have a recurring dream of you. Well, ‘dream’ isn’t quite the right word because it doesn’t come during sleep but rather right at the moment where sleep should overtake me but doesn’t. Every night you take up residence there, between dreams and wakefulness. It’s not your face I see, but a sunflower with only one petal left, right at the top, reaching endlessly to the sky.
You’re not here anymore, but I know what you’d say.
“How do you know it’s me?”
“How do I know rain is rain? Or that the sky is the sky? Or that the wind is wind?”
“Am I wind to you? Am I the sky?”
“No,” I say to the empty room room around me. “You are not the wind, you are not the sky.”
I don’t know how I know, but I do, that you’re smiling somewhere as I type this. Perhaps not even thinking of me but smiling all the same as some nameless warmth fills your heart.
“Because you are the sunflower.”
“With only one petal?”
“But why only one? Because I’m dying?”
You’d be silent for a moment, of this I’m sure.
“Am I dying?” You’d ask.
“Yes.” I’d reply. “And no.”
And you would just look at me, unsure anymore if I make you happy, or sad.
“A sunflower with one petal is hope, to me.” I’d explain. “It’s either limitless potential or imminent death. In growing the sunflower will bring great joy. Every person that gazes upon it will smile and carry summer in their hearts. But were it to be dying it would fall, crushed under it’s own weight, folding to the ground only to decompose and become, once again, of the earth.”
“And what joy is that?” You’d ask.
“It’s infinite. For to become a part of the earth is to become the earth as one. From a single plant to the foundation of billions. Of one to of everything. That is what you are to me, my sunflower, not the immediate or the infinite, but the moment between where all things are possible. That’s why you come to me when I’m neither asleep, nor awake.”
“And why must I leave you?”
“Because, my sunflower, you’re not really here. You must be gone before I’m either.”