Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /nfs/c05/h02/mnt/72367/domains/patriciacarley.com/html/wp-content/themes/beveled/functions/admin-hooks.php on line 160

Borderlines

My next step will take me as far away from home as I have ever been even though, when I turn my head, I can still see my mud and grass hut and hear the chickens in my yard.

I can hear what is left of my family crying, just like my little sister whose hand I hold tightly, is crying.

‘Shh…little sister, shh….’ I croon. Later my soothing voice will turn harsh and my hand that caresses her little fingers will become a vise over her twisted mouth.

But for now we are merely strolling along the forest path looking for all the world like two sisters on our way to pick some fruit or find scraps of firewood that have become scarcer and scarcer in our village. We live in a forest but the wood from these trees is not good for burning, producing only smoke and ash in our fire pits. There is barely any food to cook anyway and water has become too precious for washing. We take sips throughout the day from the one bucket we have hauled from the muddy river.

The soldiers have passed this way many times in the past months taking all but two scrawny chickens we hid in the forest, our wilting vegetables, most of our buckets for carrying water from the river far away, and our men.

The first soldiers, who wore red arm bands, took my qajaw. No matter how much my chuch(we used the K’iche’ Indian names for father-qajaw and mother-chuch in my village), her chuch, my little sister and I begged and cried and beat at the soldiers with our fists, he was dragged away into the forest and we never saw him again.

Then the soldiers with black arm bands came and gave my brothers, 15 years old and 10 years old, sugar cane sticks and guns and took them away with the other young boys of my village. The last I saw of them, my older brother was marching away proudly cradling his gun. My little brother was crying, dragging the heavy weapon through the dirt and peeking at me over his shoulder while sucking on the sugar cane stick. The old men, like my chuch’s qajaw, were shot and thrown into a shallow ditch.

Two days later my chuch and her chuch had a plan all worked out for sending me and my little sister ‘North’ to a place called America, to safety. It was a grand plan while they were talking about it, but in reality, how could we do this? Two young girls, me 13, my sister 6, walking away from everything and everyone we had ever known to go into the unknown ‘North.’

We would have to walk by night and rest during the heat of the day under cover of trees and tall grasses. My chuch’s chuch told me how to find water and which fruits and plants were safe to eat and how to spot a snake or spider hiding in the fruit ready to bite us. We had to leave the village as if we were taking a walk with nothing but the clothes on our backs and a small sack with nuts, seeds and one bottle of water in it. We had to be very careful to look casual as there were spies everywhere nowadays. With all the men dead or taken away, the women had resorted to watching one another very closely for any indication of collaboration with either the red or black arm-banded soldiers. They wanted their men and boys back and some would do almost anything to achieve this. Spying became commonplace.

I am 13 so I know some things about life. I know I better not be caught by either group of soldiers, whether my brothers are with them or not. They are hungry and exhausted and some have a crazy look in their eyes. My 6 year old sister is not safe from their physical demands, nor is my chuch, nor her chuch. Young or old these soldiers want females to have sex with. We must flee while we can.

So, as the sun gets lower in the sky, my little sister and I walk as casually, but purposefully, as we can away from our hut. We wave goodbye to our chuch and I yell, ‘See you for supper!’ so everyone can hear me and think we will be back soon after gathering fire wood in the forest for cooking our meager supper. My little sister says nothing. She has not spoken since our qajaw was beaten and dragged away, our brothers lured away with sugar cane and guns and our chuch’s qajaw shot in front of our eyes and thrown away like garbage. I don’t know if she will ever speak again. Her thumb, firmly planted in her mouth, looks like a cork stopping up a clay jug used for saving the bones of our dear, dead ancestors. She is sealed and silent as the grave.

I wipe the tears from her cheeks and start to sing a song she liked as a baby and swing her arm as we walk away into the forest.

I used to love to walk here when my older brother was still playing games with me. I would hide in all sorts of crazy places while he ran around shouting my name, all the while knowing exactly where I was. I could not stop myself from giggling. He would creep up behind me as I hid under an elephant grass leaf, tap me on the shoulder, then roll in the dirt laughing while I shrieked.

But today there is no laughter. We are walking off the beaten path so we can hide quickly if anyone comes along, but this is not a game.

I imagine I hear footsteps behind us all the time and am constantly pulling my little sister under a fern or behind a banana tree. I quickly realize we did not wear the proper clothes and shoes for this journey to the mysterious ‘North.’ We have on shorts, white t-shirts and white canvas sneakers. They are our best clothes as far as having no holes in them, but white can be easily spotted amongst the green leaves and grasses. I take off my t-shirt and sneakers and make my little sister do the same. I roll them in the dirt and tell her we are now wearing camouflage outfits like our brothers, the new soldiers.

She smiles a tiny smile around her thumb, the first in weeks. I pick up long sticks to use as our ‘guns’ to frighten off snakes and lizards. I also use mine to knock down a small bunch of green bananas and then whack them to make sure there are no snakes or spiders wrapped up inside. We have food for this evening.

As we walk along I begin to think of our journey in terms of ‘borderlines’ to be crossed. If I think too far ahead I might go crazy wondering where we were going, how far to the next village, where is this path taking us?

The first borderline was the doorway at my mud house. That was the hardest one to step over. The next was the border between my village and the road into the forest. The next is up ahead somewhere. My chuch said to keep following the dirt road until I crossed a river that should be shallow enough this time of year to wade through.

We walk on until the sun begins to rise to our right. At least we had been walking north through the night. Soon I will need to find a place for us to hide during the day.

What’s that noise? A branch snapping? Have the villagers realized we did not come back last night and are looking for us?

I pull my little sister deeper into the forest to our left. When I peek out between the ferns I see men and boys with guns and black arm bands. One of the boys turns his head and looks right at me but doesn’t seem to see me. It is our older brother! His eyes look crazy and are rolling around this way and that, his head whipping back and forth, his finger jiggling on the trigger of his gun. I crouch lower, covering my little sister with my body. She starts making strangling noises in her throat and I know a full-fledged scream is not far behind so I clamp my hand hard over her mouth and whisper harshly into her ear, ‘Shut up!’

My brother stops for a moment, then moves on down the road with the others, crazy-eyes looking all around. My little brother is not with him. I wonder what has become of him and why my older brother is still with these soldiers and not protecting the younger one. I can’t think about this now or it will make me crazy, too.

It takes many hours for my little sister to calm down enough to try to sleep this first full day away from our home. It is difficult to get comfortable with the blazing sun overhead and our bellies growling. The little green bananas have probably made us sick. I tell her over and over how sorry I am for hurting her, but we have to stay absolutely silent. Even our beloved older brother is an enemy to us now. Finally we sleep. Fitfully, but we manage to sleep the day away.

Darkness descends like a blanket as the almost full moon rises in the east. We have enough light to find some dewdrops captured in the leaves of low-hanging branches to quench our thirst. Our bellies are still grumbling, but my little sister does not complain, just corks her mouth up with her thumb after sipping the dewdrops. I am determined to save the things in my bag until we really need them.

How much worse will things get?

We walk all night by the light of the moon and stars. I sing songs and tell stories aloud of things I remember of our life in the village. My little sister stumbles a few times and I know I will have to carry her soon. When she stops dead in her tracks I hoist her onto my right hip. Quite soon I have to switch her to my left hip, then straddle her thin legs across my lower back. She takes her thumb out of her mouth to hold onto my neck but once she finds her balance, corks it back in.

Just before daybreak the river appears before us. I can hear the rushing water and realize we are not going to be able to wade across like my chuch assured us would happen. We might even need a boat.

Along the bank of the river are many other people. Mostly children, like us. Mostly girls, like us. Where have they all come from? We have seen no one the past day and a half. Only the soldiers, our crazy-eyed brother and a few screeching monkeys.

We all stand in a line looking at the rushing water as the sun sets to our left. We are probably all thinking the same thing.

Now what do we do?

 One taller girl points across the river and says: ‘Mexico.’

That’s where we were headed? Mexico? My chuch kept saying ‘North’ to America. But Mexico is in the way?’ How big is Mexico?

Some of the girls step into the water and when it does not sweep them away I run in with my little sister and we wash ourselves and our clothes as best we can. Our white t-shirts and sneakers are permanently brown now but they no longer smell so bad. I find a soap plant near the river bank and wash my little sister’s hair and mine so we smell and look a little better also.

We are shy with the others at first and not everyone speaks the exact same language, but we are together now, a force of 20 girls. We share our horror stories of fathers and grandfathers being beaten and killed, brothers taken away by soldiers, mothers and aunts raped. Some of these girls had been raped by the soldiers too. I pray my older brother has not been a part of that, or the killing either, but remembering his crazy eyes I can no longer be sure he is the same innocent boy I knew and loved. He has crossed over a borderline of his own.

 

As we sit shivering in the dark a large raft appears in the river, two men pushing it with long poles. They yell to us.

‘We are friends. We will help you cross this river.’

What can we do but nod ‘OK’ and step aboard.

Another borderline is crossed. The river that takes us into Mexico.

What lay ahead for us in this desert land?

I hold my little sister tightly against my chest. I am terrified this boat with no sides will roll over and dump us all into the river. We will drown and our chuch and her chuch will never know what has happened to us. Were we safe in America? Were we in school? Were we living with a nice family who would send for them next year? Or…did we die on the road, no one knowing who we were?

The raft bumps roughly into the opposite bank and presto! we are in another country. The two men do not ask for money which is a good thing since we have none.

Why are they helping us, then?

A big truck is waiting by some trees and we all climb inside. Again, what else can we do? I hand my little sister up to another girl we met on the raft, pull myself up and sprawl on the hot metal floor. The back door slides down with a clang as the sun comes up on day three.

We are encased in darkness once again only with no moon or stars to give some light and guidance. I try to sing a song but my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. I hear the word ‘mama’ whispered in the darkness. It is the first word my little sister has said in over a week. I hold her tightly, choke out “Adios, Guatemala” and weep.

I would have said ‘Hola!’ to Mexico but we never saw it. We sat or lay down on the hot metal floor, or leaned against one another for comfort for many, many hours. The air became thick with whispers, sobs, body odor and other smells.

The man who drives the truck pulls to the side of the road once to let us out to relieve ourselves in the dark and stretch a little. But in ten minutes we are shoved back into the truck and told to stay quiet. We don’t need this reminder. More long, hot hours slide by.

 

Another borderline to cross:

The truck stops and I can hear a gate going up. Someone is knocking a stick or gun against the sides of the truck. Men’s voices argue back and forth. No one opens the back door. The truck starts up again after a few more minutes and we all let our breath out in one big ‘whoosh.’ We stay tense and alert. Anything can happen as we cross this border.

 

My little sister is feverish. All we have eaten are the seeds and nuts I saved in my bag and sips of hot water from the plastic bottle. She is too weak to cry but her thumb is still securely corked in her mouth. All the girls are sick in some way.

Will we ever make it ‘North’ to America alive?

 
The truck slows down to a full stop. Has a day gone by? Two? The back door slides up. The bright sun hurts our eyes. I jump down and my little sister is handed to me. She winds her thin legs around my waist as I hoist her onto my sore right hip. The driver of the truck says simply, ‘America.’

We made it! We are alive and in the ‘North.’ In America! I feel sad that the rest of my family cannot share this joyous moment, but so happy to be here! I think of all the things that will be possible for me and my little sister now. We will be free of hunger and the extreme poverty of our village. We will no longer have to fear the soldiers with their red bands or black bands and guns pointed at our heads. We will be free to go to school and get a job at a magical place called ‘Walmarts.’ We will send for our chuch and her chuch next year and have them live with us in a brick house on a street lined with trees. We will find my brothers somehow and bring them over too. Maybe we will have a cat and a dog.

I hear cheering voices and see flags and signs fluttering in the hot breeze. The people of this place are excited to see us, are welcoming us to America. I never expected such a wonderful thing!

I turn to the driver of our truck and ask him to translate these words of welcome. The voices are rising as one now, the banners held higher.

He looks at me with pity.

“They are saying, ‘Go home! Back to Mexico! Go home!’”

I look harder at these people. I see now that their faces are angry. They are shaking their fists at us. One man has a gun pointed at us.

I say to the driver, ‘But we’re from Guatemala. If we go back home we will be killed or worse! We’re Guatemalan, not Mexican, so we can stay, right?’

He shrugs his shoulders as if to say, ‘Who knows?’

 

Last borderline:

The crack in my broken heart.

 

Coming Home

I know I have left Rudy on the dock in Scotland waiting for a troop ship to bring him home to his Duchess. At last he is on his way across the Atlantic with an unexpected encounter awaiting him on the dock at New York harbor.

 

August 10, 1946

Dear Duchess,

I am back on the dock in Scotland waiting for another troop ship to take me home to you. We set sail on August 8th, but had engine trouble a day out to sea and had to turn around. We are all very disappointed but what can we do? That’s the Army for you, ‘hurry up and wait’ right till the end.

I hope to send this letter on another ship sailing today and maybe it will get to you before I do. I have been dreaming about you and our farm every night for the last week, finally letting myself think about going home. I never want to travel again.

Your loving husband,

Rudy

 

He folds the delicate blue airmail letter/envelope, addresses it and walks across the dock to another ship getting ready to steam across the Atlantic. He doesn’t let himself think about how he longs to be on this other ship. He keeps his mind on rounding up the boys, now men, who are still under his care and command until they reach the port of New York. He hefts the duffle bag holding the dog tags of those he lost over the past year and sighs. There are so many things he didn’t tell his Duchess in his letters home – his mother either. The most recent secret is why it is taking so long to get onto another troop ship. The hold of his ship was filled with so many coffins it’s taking at least 3 days to unload them from the one hold and then load them into the other one. He sits and watches this process for a while wondering how there can be so many coffins a year after the war officially ended. He has seen the rows upon rows of white crosses marking the graves of U.S. and other soldiers buried in foreign soil.  Why do some get taken back home while others still remain in France and Belgium and the little country with the funny name, Luxembourg? Even General Patton lies buried in France. He cannot imagine his own dear   mother and wife not being able to visit his grave, not being able to picture the cemetery and surrounding countryside he might be buried in. This thought gives him a shiver and he turns away from the ships and looks for his ‘boys.’

The Mexican and the Indian are throwing knives into the dock, like they always have. They are almost twenty now but look like they are 40. The laughter they share as each one throws the knife further and further down the dock does not make it to their eyes. They have seen too much, experienced too much in the past year and a half, to smile all the way through their bodies yet. He spies his friend Al who will be going back to the coal mines in Pennsylvania in another week or so. And over there is ‘Ole Pitt’ who wrote with such a fine hand the other fellas had him write letters home for them. Pitt had grown up in a little shack in the mountains of North Carolina, so how he learned to write so beautifully was anybody’s guess. It was his secret to keep.

They all had secrets to keep. Secrets about the war, secrets about their former lives, secrets about their hopes and dreams when they got back home again.

He had wanted to be someone who made a difference and do something grand in the world. Well, he surely had participated in a grand undertaking to destroy Hitler and his armies. Unfortunately, along the way people on both sides had their everyday lives destroyed, homes reduced to rubble, livelihoods ruined.

He hears a commotion down the docks and realizes the new troop ship is ready for boarding by him and his unit and the thousands of other soldiers and sailors and airplane pilots heading back to the USA.

They walk briskly up the gangway, but even at a relatively fast pace it takes another whole day to get all the guys and their gear on board. Standing at the rail he watches a group of women in uniform, probably nurses, being escorted to another part of the ship. He can only imagine what they witnessed and took part in while in war-torn Europe. He can’t even envision his Duchess being a part of the war and its aftermath. He is so glad she is safe at home with her parents, teaching school and not having to deal with the memories of the smell and sounds of the dead and dying in every village he walked through.

 

They set sail once again and this time will keep steaming across the Atlantic until they reach New York harbor. He tries to keep the remaining members of his unit together. It is clearly not so important now that they are heading home, but he doesn’t want to have any of his boys getting hurt or falling overboard. They have managed to survive all the horror, and a freak accident now would be too much for him to bear.

The Army food is still awful, but there is plenty of it for a change and he and ‘his boys’ can sleep above-deck if they want. There are no more mandatory blackouts to keep them safe from enemy aircraft. They doubt the Japanese will be flying overhead. It gives him a chill just to think that could be possible.

Communication, ship to shore, is still patchy so by the time they hear that U.S. pilots in the Pacific have dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – 2 names he has never heard of and probably can’t spell – the war over there is already over.

When this announcement is made over the ship’s crackly loud speakers everyone cheers. Gone now is the new fear that this troop ship might be diverted to the Pacific Theatre to fight there. He didn’t know how he would have told his wife and mother he was heading to another battlefield. One even more remote and strange than Europe had been. He wonders how his little brother was faring on his island battleground. Was his ship part of this bombing of Japan’s mainland or was he right now steaming towards the United States from the other direction? He wouldn’t know until he himself was back in Western New York. He thought how lucky he was to live in the same state this ship docked in. He could walk home if he absolutely had to. Hadn’t he walked across Germany and parts of France, England and Scotland over the past 1 ½ years? He worried about how ‘his boys’ would all get to their homes. The Mexican to Texas, the Indian to Oklahoma, Al to Pennsylvania, Ole Pitt to North Carolina. The Army moved you where you needed to go on your way to the war, but left you stranded on a dock on y our way back home. He’d help them if he could.

He made sure they all had dimes for making phone calls to their mothers, or wives, or sweethearts. He made sure they understood they had to figure out how to catch a train or Greyhound bus to make their way out of New York City. What he didn’t know and could never have anticipated were how many soldiers, sailors, airmen, medical corps and support personnel were swarming the docks of New York harbor trying to do the same things he and his unit were. The lines at the few phone booths were impossibly long and mustering out could take hours or even a day. But for now he had time and space to dream about home.

At night he would look up at the stars over the Atlantic and send a prayer of thanks skyward that he was alive and had all his limbs and both blue eyes. So many of his fellow passengers were on crutches or in wheelchairs or with bandages wrapped around their heads.  Some were crying or muttering to themselves. He sent up another prayer for the souls of the boys he had lost in Europe, for the released prisoners of Dachau, the woman whose house he had commandeered, her lost family.  He thought this would be the last time he thought about any of them.

 

The next morning as the dazzling sun came up behind the ship, land was sighted up ahead by the lookouts. It was a wonder the ship didn’t do a somersault as everyone rushed forward to get a look. Now they saw many other troop ships all around them and some aircraft overhead streaming ‘Welcome Home’ banners behind them. He could hear the men shouting on the other ships and they all tried to out-shout one another. He was jostled and elbowed as more men and some of the nurses attempted to get closer to the railing. He stepped back to give others a chance and stepped on the foot of his friend, Al.

‘We made it, Al. We’re home.’

They punched one another in the shoulder and grinned and grinned as the Statue of Liberty loomed ahead.

Now they were being directed by tugboats into a slot at the over-crowded docks. Music filled the air as swing bands played Glen Miller songs. Welcome Home banners fluttered down from the tall buildings while thousands of people filled the streets and sidewalks and docks or hung out of  windows for as far as he could see. He thought they must have landed on a National Holiday, then realized their return was the cause for celebration. With Japan’s surrender the war was truly over and all of New York City was in a party mood.

Three hours after docking, he stood at the top of the gangway with his duffle bag on one shoulder and the smaller bag with his dead comrades’ dog tags in the other. The delicate cup and saucer Lisle had given him wrapped tightly in a scarf and nestled in with the tags. He took the last step off the ship, leaving the brutal, heartbreaking past year and a half behind him and stepped onto the wooden planks of the dock and out into his bright, new future.

The mustering out was taking place right on the docks. The Army had given up funneling the troops into offices set up for this purpose and military personnel were trying to get lines formed outside. It was difficult to keep the excited, jostling young men in line, especially now that they no longer felt they needed to follow orders. They were sick and tired of following orders and standing in lines and waiting for the next thing to happen. They just wanted to sign a paper and go home.

At desks, young men and a few women were taking down information for their discharge papers. In the background a group of three women were signing on a platform raised high above the crowds. He wondered if they were the famous Andrews Sisters. He couldn’t be sure, but they sounded divine and were singing in English whoever they were.

The smell of roasting chestnuts and hot dogs and popcorn wafted over the docks from the street vendors lined up along the sidewalks. His mouth watered. He had forgotten food could smell this good.

After 3 hours of switching his heavy duffle bag from shoulder to shoulder, it was his turn. The young woman seated at the desk was perhaps in her mid to late-twenties with blond hair and brown eyes that looked vaguely familiar to him. He had seen so many women in Germany who looked far older than their years that it was hard for him to tell anyone’s age. But those eyes….

She asked him the standard questions: ‘when did you arrive in Europe?  Whose command were you under? Where were you stationed? Do you want any help from the Army? Medical, financial, transportation home?’

He answered her questions and said he’d take some counseling sessions just for something to say that would keep him at her desk longer. She said if he wanted to stay in New York City another day or two he could get whatever medals he was entitled to.

‘No, ma’am. I’m going home today if I can. The medals can wait.’

As he turned to leave he saw the name on her lapel, V. Wickersheim, and asked, ‘What does the V. stand for?’

‘Viva. It’s a name I took while living in Paris. It means life or to be alive. I felt grateful to be alive at the end of the war, to have survived the years I hid from the Nazis and finally escaped to France. So grateful to find passage to the United States and get this job, even though it is temporary.  All of my family and many of my friends from those days are dead or missing. I don’t know why I am telling you this,’ she says with a nervous laugh as she looks over her shoulder to see if anyone is listening.

Her sad eyes lock onto his for a moment and he turns to leave. But something about what Viva just said make these words come out of his mouth unbidden: ‘I forgot to mention I was in the village of Dachau for a few weeks after that prison camp was liberated.’ He doesn’t know why he said this. He wanted to forget about those few weeks, about the emaciated prisoners he saw there, about the townspeople who pretended they knew nothing about the camp even though the whole town smelled of death and decay.

The pen she had lifted in readiness for the next soldier in line stopped in mid-air.

‘You were there?’ she whispered.

‘Yes. After liberating the camp my unit took over a farm close by to hold the prisoners until they could be safely moved to an Army hospital. The war officially ended during the 2 weeks I was there. Many of the liberated prisoners died though we all tried our best to save them, including Lisle who owned the farm.’

‘You say her name was Lisle?’ Another whispered question.

‘Her husband, Heinrich, had died in 1942 but Lisle was there keeping the farm and buildings the best she could, waiting for her two children to return when the war was over. She thought they were most likely dead. Heinrich, Jr. was a soldier for the Nazis, sent to the Russian Front and Gretchen joined the underground movement in the late 1930s. Lisle hoped she had escaped to France. There had been no word from either child in years.

Viva clutches her chest and cries out, ‘I am Gretchen! My mother is still alive? When I heard Dachau Camp had been liberated I assumed the townspeople were killed by the Allies in retribution for allowing the Camp to be there.’

Gretchen gets up from her folding chair, eyes shining with tears and hugs him tight. She takes his hand and leads him away from the table leaving a long line of soldiers cursing and yelling after them. They wend their way through the crowds and into a building. They stand in front of a glass-paneled door and she points to a telephone on a desk inside the office.

‘Call home from here, Rudy. How else can I ever thank you for giving me back my mother?’

She kisses him lightly on the cheek, takes a deep breath and removes her nametag.

‘I am finished with this French name. Now I can be Gretchen again. I will find my mother and bring her to America where she will be safe.’

She walks back out to the lines and lines of men waiting impatiently to be discharged. For the first time in years there is a genuine smile on her lips as she looks up and says, ‘Next?’

Rudy’s hand shakes as he dials the number he has been longing to dial. He pictures the telephone wires stretching across New York State to Middleport, the wires humming with the rings. He holds his breath in anticipation of hearing the voice he has been longing to hear these many, lonely months.

‘Hello?’ says a quivering voice still unused to speaking into a telephone.

‘Hello, Duchess? I’m home.’

 

The Butterfly Alights

The Butterfly Alights

               By Patricia Carley

 

The butterfly alights on the daisy’s dewy petal

It is like the kiss of an angel, so soft and gentle

The fluttering wings barely moving the air

I stand there breathless, enchanted, aware.

 

It is like the kiss of an angel so soft and gentle

Enveloped in the mists of morning on my lawn

I stand there breathless, enchanted, aware

Awed by this gift from the Goddess.

 

Enveloped in the mists of morning on my lawn

I am barefoot on the dewy grass

Awed by this gift from the Goddess

Watching the silvery moon rise o’er the trees

 

I am barefoot on the dewy grass

It is like the kiss of an angel so soft and gentle

She looks like a specter by the light of the silvery moon

The butterfly alights on the daisy’s dewy petal

Summer Solstice

SUMMER SOLSTICE

By Patricia Carley

 

My legs are lolling over the arm of the Adirondack chair

I sip lemonade through a pale green straw

My book forgotten on the grass

I stare at the leaves overhead as they sway in the air.

 

I sip lemonade through a pale green straw

Wondering, dreamily, what this day will bring

I stare at the leaves overhead as they sway in the air

Will it rain today?

 

Wondering, dreamily, what this day will bring

My hands brush the tops of buttercups at my sides

Will it rain today?

Or will the clouds just drift apart and vanish?

 

My hands brush the tops of buttercups at my sides

I sip lemonade through a pale green straw

I think I must look like a painting of summer

My legs are lolling over the arm of the Adirondack chair.

‘Light As A Feather’

‘Light As A Feather’

                By Patricia Carley

 

  Two angels sit on a cloud watching the planets spin by. One says to the other: ‘I want to try out life on the planet called Earth. It looks interesting and challenging and fun down there. They call themselves human beings, but all I can see are humans doing!  I want to know what it is like to be a human.’ The other replies: ‘Sounds great! I’ll watch from here and help you when I can. Don’t forget that you’re one of heaven’s angels and I will be reminding you when it’s time to come back home.’ ‘I won’t forget. How could I forget? I’m doing God’s work, aren’t I?’ She flies down to Earth, is born into a human family and for several years remembers she is an angel, a messenger from God.  She brings Heaven’s Light to everyone she meets. Family, friends, neighbors and teachers call her their ‘little angel.’ But slowly, day by day, she gets caught up in this dense world of form, like a butterfly in a spider’s web. By the time she becomes a young adult she has forgotten her angelic roots. She does not understand the rules of Earth, so cannot abide by them. She begins to long for something just beyond her reach, but what was it? 

   She knows she does not fit in with the people around her. She is different. She has difficulty paying attention to what people say to her. She cannot answer their questions. She learns if she smiles and speaks about things in a general way, she can get by. She can hold a job, but it takes a lot of her energy to do these things.  To keep pace with everyone else she has to spin around to catch all the sights and sounds bombarding her from every direction. She twirls and dances as fast as she can until her edges become blurred. Sometimes when she twirls real fast she can catch a crystal clear glimpse of something at the edges of this world dashing by. Everything comes together for one glorious moment, then is gone in the mist of confusion surrounding her again.

  Even in the midst of this confusion she feels an urgency to figure out why she is here and what life is all about. She wants to learn and experience everything no matter how difficult it is for her physically and emotionally. She becomes passionate about learning what it is to be a ‘human being and not just a human doing.’ She has a wisp of memory about these terms. She spoke them to someone once long, long ago. In a faraway place. But where? To whom was she speaking? Images of feathers and glowing orbs of light drift in and out of her mind. She feels like time is running out for her…..

  So, she decides to ask people everywhere she goes: “What does it mean to you to be a human being?” And, amazingly, people answer her. People who are sleeping on sidewalks. People who are hurrying to work and stepping over the people sleeping on sidewalks. People carrying little dogs in their Prada shoulder bags. People carrying their possessions in paper bags, begging in the streets. Some think about their answer for a long time. Others write in haste. Some of them write volumes in answer to her query. Others just a single word: ‘Love.’  She gathers her information, but does not know what to do with it.  She wants to know the answer. Is desperate to know the answer. She thinks about it day and night.  She becomes overwhelmed by it all, crawls into bed, pulls the covers over her head and sleeps. In her dreams a voice keeps repeating: ‘It’s time to come home. It’s time to come home.’ ‘What do you mean? This isn’t my home?’

  One day, knowing her quiet, contemplative time is ended and she can once again join the ‘human citizenry,’ she comes out from under the covers and says: ‘Hey, I know what to do to help her human friends who are caught up in the ‘doing’ and not the ‘being’ of life on Earth. I’ll construct a sensory room so people who are overloaded by sights and sounds and have processing problems like I do can have a place to relax and chill out in soft chairs, on pillows, with music and muted colors on the walls, a place where people can just Be In The Moment in the midst of a hectic, confusing, demanding day…it’ll be great!’ Her head is filled with glorious ideas. She wants to help everyone. Turning her attention to the people labeled ‘disabled’ or ‘suffering from dementia,’ she learns new things about human beings. These people may not be capable of doing many physical things, so they spend more of their time just being. They look forward to her visits when she sings and dances and twirls around while painting rainbow colors on canvases. They forget they have disabilities. They forget they have dementia. She thinks this might be what it means to ‘be human.’ Just being yourself in one, long, glorious moment without labels or expectations.

  More and more often now she hears the voice from her dreams inside her head while she is awake: ‘Remember who you are. Come home.’ 

  She feels drawn to wear glittery clothes and butterfly wings. One evening on her way to an art opening she wears a halter top made of little pieces of reflecting glass. She dazzles the passersby, throwing prisms of the setting sun all around the sidewalks. She glimpses her reflection in a store window and is amazed to see herself all glittery and shimmery. The reflected light makes a halo around her golden head. ‘Wow!’ she thinks. ‘I’m reminded of something here, something important just at the edge of my mind. This halo, the glittery clothes. I usually see myself through a mist, all blurry-edged, but right now my image is crystal clear, shining in all its facets. I look like someone from another world.’

  On her way home, she has an epiphany. She remembers. She had made a pact with her Spirit friend before coming to Earth.  She was supposed to gather information on what it meant to be a ‘human being’ on planet Earth and then return home. But she had gotten caught up in her life here and desire to help the humans she loved. She had stayed too long and because her true self existed in a higher vibration, this world was too dense for her spirit to thrive in. That’s why she was always so exhausted and confused. 

 But now her mind is clear. She has a flash of insight: ‘I am an angel and it’s time for me to go home.’ She drives to a park, a place she dearly loves. A place she visited often to feel closer to God. She stands with her face tilted towards the sun.  

A voice on the breeze whispers: ‘Ah, finally you remember. I’m coming for you now.’

She sees a winged figure approaching her with arms out-stretched. A hand is beckoning her to come forward and meet this figure encased in golden light. She takes one step forward and realizes she is walking above the ground.

She feels light as a feather. Why, she could float right up to Heaven.  And she does.

Perceptions / Spiral of Time

PERCEPTIONS/ SPIRAL OF TIME

By Maria Diotte and Patricia Carley

 

Maria:

Perceptions

How do you perceive me now?

 

Patricia:

There was a time I thought we’d never end.

Tomorrow was today and every hour was you.

 

M:

Jazz jam session

Black boots with heels, jeans, black sweater

Italian bracelet and ring

Curly dark hair

Lounging and writing

 

How do you perceive me now?

 

P:

But somehow we got separated

I was lost, you were not near.

 

M:

Perceptions

When it comes to Symbol systems

Like language

Words with connotations

Each word with its infinite meanings

Derived from the life paths of individual Beings

And webs of interactions

That keep weaving

 

P:

Have we been traveling through the Ages

Trying to find one another once more?

Sometimes I think ‘Ah, it’s you!’

At others you seem so strange.

Can you be the love I’ve longed for

Or are you just a substitute?

 

M:

“Did you ever love me?” he questioned.

She did love him

But to him it was a lie

because she meant something different by it at the time.

 

 

P:

Sometimes so much in tune with one another

I’m frightened.

Sometimes so out of sync

I’m frightened, too.

 

M:

And as the time changes

So do our minds

It is what it is

In the moment that it is

In the place where we are

In the place where we are not

When we want to be there

 

P:

We weave in and out of

Our self-made maze

Trying to make some sense of this life.

We meld together into a perfect blend

Only to clash head-on again.

 

M:

When we long for the one we are thinking of

And smile at the faces in the room to transport ourselves

Out from our minds

And into the space we are in

 

And we continue on

We decide to live

Because wherever we are

We have ourselves

We know ourselves

We won’t settle for what we don’t want when we don’t want it

 

P:

I suspect we both have much to learn

Before we end this cycle of life

The Spirit within each of us

Will have to work hard

To help us harmonize our lives

 

M:

Be where we are

And stay with what we Feel

Which may change

With the winding ways   of the passing days

 

P:

Meeting and parting in a never-ending spiral

One moment, connecting

the next drifting on and apart.

 

M:

Suns

Moons

Stars of the Sky

 

P:

Twirling and whirling through time and space.

 

M:

But the sun today will be the sun tomorrow

And the moon above me will be the moon above you

 

Are you seeing the stars I see?

Or are the lights shining differently for you now this night?

 

P.

There was a time I thought we’d never end

 

Perceptions

How do you perceive me?

 

M:

Maybe not at all

Maybe that’s how we fall.

The Singing Bowl

THE SINGING BOWL   By Malcolm Guite

 

Begin the song exactly where you are,

Remain within the world of which you’re made.

Call nothing common in the earth or air.

 

Accept it all and let it be for good.

Start with the very breath you breathe in now,

This moment’s pulse, this rhythm in your blood.

 

And listen to it, ringing soft and low.

Stay with the music, words will come in time.

Slow down your breathing. Keep it deep and slow.

 

Become an open singing-bowl, whose chime

Is richness rising out of emptiness,

And timelessness resounding into time.

 

And when the heart is full of quietness

Begin the song exactly where you are.

It all began with a sound.

It all began with a sound.

 

The ‘Big Bang Theory’ of how our Universe began.

The opening line of the Judeo-Christian Bible – ‘in the beginning was the word’

Practitioners of Islam pause 5 times a day to bow and say prayers to Allah.

My Buddhist friend, Jun-san, beats her drum and chants ‘Na-Mu-Myo-Ho-Renge-Kyo’ as she walks around the world and back. She believes the sound of the drum beat will change people’s hearts and bring peace to any situation. I have been a witness to this transformation.
The Greek philosopher, Pythagoras, showed us how numbers, colors and musical notes are inter-connected bringing us the Music of the Spheres.

Hindus intone the word OM which symbolizes the original vibration that created the Universe.

Indigenous peoples around the world drum and chant ancient sounds during their rituals.

Anyone who has been in the audience at a Riverdance performance knows how the sound of all those tapping feet drives right into your soul.

 

I could go on with examples, but here are 2 quotes I want to share with you:

The first by musician Dave Brubeck:

‘One of the reasons I believe in jazz is that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your heart. It’s the same anyplace in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born – even before you’re born – and it’s the last thing you hear.’

 

The second by Jan Richardson, artist/poet, who wrote this ‘Heartbeat Liturgy’

‘In the beginning was rhythm. The beating of the heart. In our bones, in the beating of our heart, we carry the sacred cadence that brought us into being. Within each of us is a rhythm that enables us to thrive… May the rhythm of your life restore and renew you this day.

 

And so we, the members of Fulton Street Writers and Rhythms, offer you a sound experience through drumbeat, percussion instruments, Tibetan singing bowls and our voices.

Rhythm and Writers Sampler

The Fulton Street Rhythms and Writers have created a Sound  Experience  for our listeners at our upcoming performances.

We will be performing at the Fulton Street Gallery in Troy NY for ‘Café Night’ throughout the year.

Here is a sampling of the poems and stories we are currently performing. As the Writers recite their poems, the drummers offer Rhythms as background enhancement to the written words.

Enjoy!