God’s Pencil

I think that God must be
a writer, a creator so free.

I think, as I write in the sleeping air of eve,
That God must be sitting in
the delicious air all around
and beside me, Him.

God’s presence is harmony: every scent, every sight, sound and purposeful
written in that crushing comfort of love, flowing into us all.

I think God must enjoy,
the feeling of a favorite writing tool.
Inky cosmos in place of a quill.
Stars wielded instead of lead spilled.
And sunsets dyeing
instead of crayons trying
to capture the kaleidoscope of hope
full colors, as God masterfully washes his horizons with
strokes that will time,
and time again, elicit unending awe and scope

In a future, so distant, yet so familiarly far, God waits.
God tells: don’t rush, enjoy this time here yet, You
know to slow, know to pause.
What is correct without flaws washed away,
our eraser remains,
our lessons unlearned, until the days stains are,
and the graphite of regret, is wiped and cleaned
by God’s unblemished.
We, the written, are redeemed.

God’s pencil is life, a tool unparalleled.
We but imitate, impersonate,
and attempt to model perfection beheld.

Our potential rests quietly, unmoving, untapped.
But when the author shares
that his pencil is for us and each other,
that life is in fact also our story to write of, partake of, to wield uncapped
for our brothers,
we dip our plume of love into the hallowed ivory inkwell
and pen a loving epilogue for life
that no ravenous darkness can erase or quell.

God must write,
His signature is upon it.
For who, or what else, could weave a tale
as poetic and tragic and hopeful and careful
as our own;
a mysteriously radiant candle.

The Last Tattoo

    Grandpa lay in the bed, and said: “I think I would like a tattoo. I never got one before and I think now might be a good time.”

     His son sighed.  “Dad, your skin can’t handle it. It’ll bleed a lot. I’m sorry.”

     “Oh,” Jack said, slapping his gums together like in a movie, “well, isn’t that a shame. “

     At that moment, grandpa looked from his son to his grandson. He smiled at Jamie, and Jamie ran out of the room with his little flashing sneakers.

     Everyone sat there, on their phones, or swirling the couch fabric with their fingers, or looking at Grandpa with a pity so overwhelming it felt like they’d be sick; a sickness of being unable to help.

     Jamie had been the only one to be with Grandpa. To look into him.

     But Jamie was gone now, and with him, any comfort that Grandpa was grateful for.

     Now phosphorescence lit faces instead of smiles.

   Now touches were given to dusty books or pictures instead of needful hands.

     Words that screamed to be spoken were silenced by fear and embarrassment and uncertainty.

     Palpable tension strained the air as if it were an overtightened string on a guitar. It held like that for a few agonizing minutes until the instant Jamie slammed back through the door. A collective sigh rushed through the room and everyone stopped distracting themsleves with distancing themselves.

     Jamie held one thing in each of his hands.

     In his right hand was a wet wash cloth.

     In his left hand was what looked to be a small picture on a piece of paper.

     “I’m glad you came back, Jamie.” Grandpa’s crow’s feet crinkled near his eyes and pulled his cheeks up into a smile.

     Jamie placed the small picture facedown on the back of Grandpa’s hands and then set the cool cloth down on top of it. Then Jamie began counting.

     After thirty-two seconds, Jamie lifted the wash cloth away and peeled back the wet paper that clung to grandpa’s hand.

     “I was always going to come back, Grandpa. I’ll be here.”

     Grandpa lifted his hand and looked at the back of it. Tattood there, just permanently enough, was Superman. With his cape whipping behind him, fist outstretched as if it was guiding the rest of his body, and the grand crimson S saying that help was on the way, Superman flew across Grandpa’s weathered and unconquered hand.

      Grandpa admired it silently.

     “Thank you, Jamie. I think I’ll go now.”

      Jamie’s face quivered. He waved, as if Grandpa was just getting on a bus to go to town.

     Grandpa waved back. Then Grandpa closed his eyes.

Aspen

“Child, do you see the trees?”

“Which ones, Oldheart?” They asked the memory-filled soul.

“They are lofty, soaring, colored like bones below and sunrise above. Do you see them?”

“I do now. I like them.”

“Ah, from afar, yes, I admire them also. Let us approach and perceive their stories; that is, if you’re content with a gently swaying walk on the path that invites us?”

“Why, certainly, Oldheart. You always do show me the most wondrous things; the hidden away things, like dusty story books lost to the hunger of a basement. No difficult walk will stop me.”

So they walked, hand in hand. The path rising, then falling, the rocks protruding like animal traps in the dried mud; they saw false paths that led to thistles and brambles, but Oldheart, like a compass, knew the true path and followed it like a river in a gorge.

The path swept them along like a falling leaf carried by the wind. Gently rocking their bodies into a sway that led them down, down, down to the land of long bones and high foliage.

They walked to the base of a tree, looking at it like a child looks at a parent.

Oldheart raised a mature and certain hand and rested it on the tree’s most featureless, ash colored bark.

“Did you know they can see us?”

“The trees?” The child uncertainly cocked their head.

“Yes.” Oldheart reverently placed the pad of their first finger on the black scar that clung to the elongated trunk like a cancer, or a priceless painting.

“How can they see us, Oldheart?” The child asked; this time though, with a note of fear playing like a muted undercurrent.

“Their eyes. They’re grown. They do not see at first, as babies. As time flows, thus do their experiences in this world. See, and feel.” Oldheart grabbed the child’s hand abruptly, not with anger, but like a guide on a dangerous path might, with confidence and assurance.

The child wondered as their fingers were kneaded by the lid of the eye on the tree. Oldheart pulled the child’s hand and placed it in the dark eclipse that defined the center of the eye. The child knew, at least, hoped they knew, that the eye would remain as it was; but the uncanny feeling nestled behind their sternum whispered otherwise; the feeling said “I will swallow you up. I will consume you. I will keep you here forever if you so desire.

Oldheart continued placing the child’s hand on different protrusions and nodules of deep black.

“Are the eyes speaking to you, child?”

“They are. But when I try to speak back they remain quiet. Why?”

“Because they do not converse. They remain scars and mementos. See, the limbs scattered around us like ancestor’s skeletons. Limbs that after having fallen off, leave the eye to look out, to be witnessed, to be learned from. Those limbs have lived their lives, and now go to the ground to return. They are a testament to those that might listen. A trophy of storms weathered, fires recovered from, and animals protected and nurtured. They are remnants of past lives. Lives that are finished, but still remembered.

“Will I become a branch like that, Oldheart?”

“No. Not until you are ready for the Earth to reclaim you.”

Oldheart let go of the child’s arm and set a hand atop the child’s head.

“Do not forget to look up. Down here, with us, is the past. Up, reaching into the sky, that’s the present and the future and the unknown. You are those flittering colors reaching out from the ends of the branches, and you will always be them, even as the ground below grows further and further away. The eye remembers, and the branch made it’s decision long ago, but you aren’t down here with those. You are up there, in the company of the birds, and caressing the clouds. Your present is always rising above the past. But the memories, the scars, are still a part of you.”

“I see.” The child said, and Oldheart knew they did.

“I am pleased. Remember, never forget what part of this tree you are; because if you do, the eyes will consume you.”

The child shivered. Did I tell Oldheart what the tree made me feel? How did Oldheart know?

The child asked what happened if you forgot. Oldheart made a sweeping motion with his hand toward the sky: “It all becomes black. It all becomes memory, even the leaves. For a new growth to break out of that shell of memory requires all the trees to rustle their leaves in unison. It is a difficult task, even for trees.”

The child nodded pensively.

“Are you ready to return?” Oldheart asked.

“Yes. Please. Thank you.” The child put their smooth, soft hand into Oldheart’s wrinkled and toughened grasp and they turned in a semi-circle. With their backs to the trees, they began to walk back up. Up, up, up, carried like a leaf by the wind, back to their own.