These Servant of God Days

Did he wake in the middle of the night,
Remembering the silence of his friends
And then their accusations?
Did he feel the heat and ease of his wife’s body
Next to him and then remember her words?
“Turn and Die.”

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The servant of God – Job.

The life of the servant restored. –

The curse lifted,

His life after his trials, blessed.

But did he never have a dark moment after?

Did he wake in the middle of the night,

Remembering the silence of his friends

And then their accusations?

Did he feel the heat and ease of his wife’s body

Next to him and then remember her words?

“Turn and Die.”

These are my Job days.

Twenty-first century Job days.

The intolerant man at the library.

My frightened son.

A new passion encumbered by suspicion

Neither one of us deserves.

Is the outstretched hand just another prison?

These are my Job days,

My memory lesson days.

God has arrived and the whirlwind has subsided.

The graves have sunk to level ground

The children play not far afield.

I smile, I laugh, I learn and teach,

But wonder did Job ever stop to pause, as I do,

Over bright meadows, golden harvests, and

Soft cold winter nights, colder now somehow.

Did Job long for the soft touch of rest and repose and

Stare into darkness instead?

Did he scrape the scares of the sores God allowed?

Does the servant never cower now?

These are my Job days.

Old enough to let go, endure the ache of regret

But not quite old enough to forget.

God’s quiet voice echoes in my head.

He always answers with a question.

His favorite, “Were you there?”

For my life, yes, I was there.

And like Job, no human touch,

No smile, no kind expression means sincere connection.

Every man for himself, every fresh looking whore too,

Every child, every demanding parent, every well meaning

Friend sinks to memory, a crashing memory of sickness, disease,

Catastrophe, the blank stare of despondency

During these Job days.

As pencil scrapes paper and cadence settles in

I’m hiding in my car, cold feet, aching hands.

No leaves on the trees a beautiful blue sky

People go by. Did Job have these days?

Did Job remember his own cry for justice?

Did the memory of his own staunch defense

And belief in his innocence weary and slacken his mind?

What does restored mean?

That we’ve learned well to handle the emotions and

Trials of catastrophe, disease, death –

Yet a slighted touch, a cross word, a moment’s silence

Too long between lovers,

Crashes the sky and breaks the heart.

These are the scares that remain

And the servant’s heart has yet to be restored.

These are my Job days.

These Servant of God Days / Lydia Ink by SK Woodiwiss

Into the Asylum

Nobody questions why a homeless schizoid dies alone – they just pack them off to cold storage.

There are days I simply wish it were over.  I don’t want to know who I am and I don’t want to face another night.  It’s different when the sun goes down.  I know and they know and the world just goes on.

When I was a kid I would read every fantasy novel I could get my hands on.  I was the skinny kid saving his pennies for the dictionaries on Middle Earth and I was the kid alone on the playground acting out the last epic battle of good versus evil.

Teachers would pull my mother aside and tell her that I made other children uncomfortable.  That the reason I was picked on and ridiculed was because I was allowed to stay in my fantasy world.  I’ll give my mother this, as tired and over worked as she was, she stood up for me.

Every once in a while she would pick me up early from school, sign me out and we would have ice cream in the full light of day.  I know that she felt it was us against them but at that time I didn’t know how many battles fronts she was fighting.

She didn’t come home one night.  They found her remains three months later down by Navy Pier.  She didn’t die there.  The police still call it an open case.  The cops that investigated her murder even came around to check on me in foster care.  Of course that told me she didn’t die easy, it wasn’t quick.

I was thirteen when she died and foster care was one of the worst things that could have happened to me.  You see when they tapped on my window and I cried for help, my foster parents didn’t believe me.  At one point I was institutionalized for schizophrenic behavior.   That was worse because then the bastards could walk right in – the loons invited them in all the time.  Nobody questions why a homeless schizoid dies alone – they just pack them off to cold storage.

Strange, the loons never turned.  Never.

I would have been lost if my screams hadn’t been heard by a weary old priest.  He didn’t believe me that they could crawl along the ceiling and hide in shadows but he did give me a golden crucifix that has never left me.

You don’t know how desperate and crazy you can sound when a white clad orderly is standing in the doorway with a straight jacket for you and one of the cursed ones is smiling at you from the ceiling; they would crawl around like flies.   I think many of the inmates went crazy after they arrived.

I sleep in the basement of the church now.  I do odd jobs so they let me.  I sleep well there despite the unbelief of the old priest who saved me.

I miss my mother.

I work hard to avenge her.  That’s what she did, worked hard.  Maybe it will all end with me.

Some how.

Lydia Ink / Into the Asylum by SK Woodiwiss

The Strength to Choose

“Jonathan, nothing is certain. You must believe me. I’ve seen hell and nothing is worse than that, please help me.”

I, of course, didn’t believe her.  I told her I did but I didn’t.  She smiled at me in a half-hearted or perhaps a whimsical sort of way and said ‘thank-you.’  She whispered the two words to me and looked away.  Her soft hair, straw colored and wavy, veiled the side of her face in a cascading shine of brilliance as she looked down at her hands.

I felt a surge of male adrenaline.  Was she that damsel in distress or that Victorian lady, even the mad Ophelia who was sitting across from me?

My friend, this is the 21st century and maybe my Baby-boomer father would have succumbed to her soft strength, I did not.  I pocketed my anxiety about her, along with my surge of Freudian awareness, paid the bill and walked away.

She was found dead the next day – her neck was broken.  I was questioned by the police and it was determined that I was the last to see her alive – outside of her murderer.

I did not kill her.

I did not.

I was at a party that night, celebrating my best friend’s engagement to a wonderful woman; strong, an attorney and not beyond child bearing years despite the time it took for them to fall in love between their accomplishments.

Does that sound cynical?

The cynicism is for me alone and anyone who might read this and ponder their long nights working not for the money necessarily but for the security of being the best.

She told me that nothing was secure.  She told me just before she died.

“Jonathan, nothing is certain.  You must believe me.  I’ve seen hell and nothing is worse than that, please help me.”

“I believe you.”  I think I even reached forward and squeezed her delicate hands.  They were warm to my touch but only, I think, because they had held the coffee I had bought for her.  She had looked almost anemic, frail, suffering.

No, perhaps now that she is in a pauper’s grave, by the grace of the state of New York, I see her differently.  My memory, no doubt, is romanticizing her last moments.

Don’t think me a total brute, please.  I would have taken her with me, fed her, introduced her back into the fold of our mutual friends but she said no.  She had to face her reality.  Odd now that I rethink our last meeting, odd that she said reality and not destiny.  Writing this all down, to whom or really why I don’t know, it strikes me that I didn’t pick up on that.  Perhaps I was too busy being pragmatic and telling myself it was for her sake.

For you see, I did believe she believed what she told me.  Now I believe her and it will no doubt be the death of me.

I won’t suffer as she did, the long nights, the endless pursuit of truth.  I’ll fight the monster as long as I can and hope I have the strength to choose death in the end.

 

 

Lydia Ink / The Strength to Choose by SK Woodiwiss

I Loved Once

I loved once but grew weary of the underlying blame that the woes of the world belonged to me or my gender.

I loved once but grew weary of the underlying blame that the woes of the world belonged to me or my gender.  Weariness, my dear friend is not anger, no more than fantastic or wonderful is anything good or wholesome.

We came together too quickly he and I.  We moved toward love and intimacy at such a rate that consequence never left.  He was in my mind, still is.  I can still hear him call me, I feel his pull but I know in my soul he resists the very memory of me.

I don’t ponder him much – just on Fridays when I know he prays and I wonder how desperate he might be for a cigarette.  That makes me smile – the damn things.  I sit here in the far west and for the first time in my life am content.  I must someday thank him for the loss, for now I am less afraid of life, perhaps not afraid at all.

Do I sound enigmatic?  That is not my intention.  My intention is to tell you to love, love deeply and lose.

I have few friends but the ones I call friend are indeed so.  One sent me a message, a quote the other day; “what would you do if you were not afraid?”

The best answers in this age are questions.  That’s how we know we are lost, distorted, darkened. The world we know is not right.  The left is right and the right is always east.  I sit here in the west and think of him and her question to me.  Fear is a funny thing; it comes upon us in the middle.  Bravery is the answer to our hesitations and when attachment is too well formed, too perfect, fear takes over and eats away the foundation.  Top heavy and teetering we let the shambles go in a crash.

My crash was the making of me.  I am in no hurry and the shy hand who brings me deep red roses, with no words to tangle my mind, is the warmth I crave.  My hands and face will never be warmed, nor my body crave a passion that distance cannot defeat.  I sit here in the west and let the east keep.  I pray still and wait for the floods of antiquity to purge us again.

I seek high places and allow weakness to win.

This Is An Escape

I have faith that I can live without you and your lack of vocabulary and your lack of effort. I can live better without, than sitting here with you in doubt

I often wonder if suppression is not my bailiwick. 

I hate the vague, I hate the words that hide that feeling you simply cannot find the word to describe.  Find the damn words. 

Don’t drift off into meditation damn it, get a dictionary, a thesaurus, pay for the subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary and sort it from the 19th century on down.  Surprise me. 

Please.  I won’t beg, I swear I will walk away.  Of course that means I’ve already walked away.  Here I stand out in the middle of Lake Michigan, realizing that it doesn’t bother me to walk on water. 

No I’m no Saint, I have faith and that’s all it takes. 

I have faith that I can live without you and your lack of vocabulary and your lack of effort.  I can live better without, than sitting here with you in doubt. 

You look beautiful by the way, the way your hair catches the sunset and the steady breathing you maintain in the middle of this muddle.  I love the sheen of your day old beard and I love the thought of you carefully shaving it all away.   Yes, I too can love.  Yes, I too can push it away. 

Not everyone is able to grab the right word, not everyone can understand the effort, not everyone can stand the cold dunk of water that searching for meaning takes. 

I’m not for everyone, isn’t that amazing. 

I’m not for anyone, I understand.

Guess I’ll walk north to Lake Superior and stay. 

There is an island up there, nice sized that boarders on Canada and sports still the stars and bars.  Have no idea why.  Maybe I’ll give it a try. 

I’m not much for crowds and I’m certainly not much for love.  I feel you dissolve before I can mourn the loss.  Was that encounter just now or one hundred years ago?

I long for the northern wind who whistles down with no mercy to meet me.  I have shunned him more than once asking for a reprieve; his love is too demanding, he exposes me.  Think of yourself totally naked, no lust, no love but up for examination.  His critical eye assessing, measuring my age, my height, my skin.  Curl under.  Go ahead and curl under and the northern wind will thunder.  So I stand straight and feel my skin tighten and my breast squeeze painfully in the freeze and I am humiliated.  That’s loving the north, that’s loving the north wind. 

What else can I do?  I too can love and I become too demanding. (Find the word but you won’t will you) I too can love but you won’t allow it – this must be a one sided thing with me grateful and you always fulfilling.  We could have it the way you want it my egotistical despair, if you could just find your heart in all the preparations you’ve made to love me.

No I am not rejecting you – this is an escape. 

 

Lydia Ink / This is an Escape by SK Woodiwiss

Liar Books

I have a rule, never speak to a man, no matter how attracted I am to him, unless he has the backbone to speak to me first.

I have a rule, never speak to a man, no matter how attracted I am to him unless he has the backbone to speak to me first. 

I don’t speak to many men. 

For two years after I invoked this rule, I was astonished at how lonely I was.  I’m not saying that men didn’t try to approach me and speak to me, they did.  They were married, of course, and we had a conversation about the weather, the owls at night (really) the training of dogs and all manner of things at all different occasions.  Not one single male, however, made a move in my direction.  Not one single male approached my friends and asked to be introduced. 

Now some might think that perhaps I’m the female version of Quasimodo – not so.  I’m no prima donna but I’m not stooped over with a hunched back and bald – nor do I have a little black mustache. 

What happened was that I obtained a reputation of being a snob, a woman who thought too much of herself and unapproached – frigid in other words. (I am not allowed to think men’s egos didn’t play into my code of conduct but this really isn’t about the male ego nor my sarcasm).  I knew this was happening because single women started to avoid me too, they didn’t want to be branded as frigid or unapproachable by associating with me.

Please don’t think that Prince Charming showed up, swept me off my jaded feet and made me the envy of all women – he didn’t.  What did happen was that I sold my flat screen TV, boxed and donated any book I owned which was written in the 20th century or after and sat down in my apartment with every book I said I had read in the past but really had not.   

In short, I began to read all the books I had lied about reading – my liar book list. 

My first attack was on all of the Jane Austen books – even Lady Susan.  Next, I tackled the Bronte sisters but please note I had already actually read “Jane Eyre.”  I was aghast to realize that I hated “Wuthering Heights,” and wondered as I struggled through the novel how the hell I was going to continue lying about the book for I had fairly gushed over it in the past, along with all my wine drinking literary friends. 

I began to wonder then if my friends had read the abridged version and I suspected that I wasn’t the only liar in the world. 

Don’t think that I ignored male authors out of spite, I did not.  I read Robert Louis Stevenson, HG Wells, and Oscar Wilde – I laughed out loud when I read “I’ve been telling the truth all this time, can you ever forgive me?” (The Importance of Being Ernest).  The man was a genius in being delightfully rotten.  I began to believe in evil as an entity with a personality (I still believe that Satan exists and is an enemy of God) after I read the books of HG Wells. 

I became so absorbed in the restitution of my lies that my friends started wondering what had become of me.  I refused invitations and my parents drove in from the suburbs one Sunday afternoon to make sure I wasn’t bloated in my apartment and drawing flies.  My father walked down to the sports bar after seeing I was okay and my mother picked up “The Invisible Man,” and started reading it. 

“If only it were true of most men,” she said opening the book and settling in beside me with some hot tea.  She took the train in and out of the city to cook for me after I told her that I was taking a week off work to do nothing but read.  She even stayed with me a few nights and read “Dracula.”  (She reacclimated herself to her Catholic upbringing soon after reading that novel).

The Friday evening of my week long liar book marathon I lamented to my Mother the idea of having to go back to work for my rent’s sake. 

“What brought all this on?  Why are you reading these books?” asked my mother.

“Because single men refuse to speak to me.”

She blinked at me from behind her thick reading glasses and for a moment I thought we were both underwater, looking at each other from behind underwater masks. 

“What?” she asked slowly.

“No single man will talk to me.  I’ve not dated a man in four years,” and went on to explain my life in the last four years.

“Do you mean to tell me you haven’t had your heart broken?”

“No.”

“You won’t talk to a man first, so no man has spoken to you in four years?”

“Well, I’ve spoken to men, Mother…”

“Yes, yes,” she said quickly “but because your experiment has worked, you are sitting down and making restitution on the lies you’ve made regarding books you said you read but really haven’t.”

“Well, now it really wasn’t an experiment but a sort of theory I was testing.”

“A theory?” asked my mother her voice rising.

“Yes,” I said wondering at her

“Do you mean to tell me I’ve been sitting in the suburbs wondering if you’re a lesbian and afraid to tell me, dead or heartbroken and all along you’ve been testing a theory?  A theory?”

I was shocked at her strident tone of voice.

“You idiot girl!”  My mother got up from her seat on my sofa and started to pace my living room floor, then sat back down and looked at me. “I took you to Sunday School to figure out men.  I read you the Genesis account of creation.  You punish yourself because you think men egotistical, and all they are is lazy, ignorant and moronic.  When mankind fell it was because Adam wouldn’t talk!  Where have you been?  How did we miss this?” She got up and paced a few more times across my living room floor.   “Oooooh!” my mother moaned and collapsed back down on my old library chair, landing on Dante’s “Inferno.”

“Mother I would hardly say I was punishing myself.  I mean I’ve been lonely but I’m better read than most people my age.”  I shrugged and picked up ‘Moll Flanders.’  “Besides most of my friends are already married and wondering why they spent the time and money on the effort.  Perhaps I’ll skip all that.”

My Mother was looking at me from between her fingers, her blue eyes shining out from behind her reading glasses.  “Then you don’t blame me for being a terrible mother?”

“I don’t consider you a terrible mother.”

She seemed relieved and removed her glasses to dab her eyes with a tissue.  “Do you see yourself ever in a relationship?”

“Oh perhaps some older man who walks by me while I’m reading on a park bench, might stop by some day and ask me what keeps me so absorbed.”

“Have you seen him?”

“Every day on my lunch hour.  After a week’s absence, I’m hoping he might have the courage to ask me what I’ve been up to.”

“Oh, darling I’m so relieved you’re not so noble as to not try stealth.”

I smiled at her and asked if she wouldn’t make me a pot of tea. 

“Oh yes certainly.  And since it’s only Friday, I think I’ll read the Pickwick Papers.  I always hated Charles Dickens and lied through so many of his novels.  But it’s time to come clean.”