Words Worth A Thousand Pictures

Crushing the Cliche That A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Archive for the category “Melancholy”

It Was Worth It

I always did it when Ma was takin’ a nap so I wouldn’t get caught. These days she’d practically fall into her bed every afternoon. I could tell she was real worried and was getting sickly, and I didn’t want to add to her troubles.

I’d move real slow in the coop and whisper real soft to the hens to keep them quiet. I’d gather a couple dozen or so, then creep into the bathroom, movin’ real wide around that one creaky floorboard. I’d wash ’em good and sneak outside, runnin’ through the orchard when I was out of sight of the house.

I felt pretty guilty inside and wondered if sneaky, thievin’ girls go to hell. But I figgered that if it was one thing we could spare, it was them eggs. Our hens and our apples were about the only things we had plenty of.

As much as I was scared of hellfire, I just couldn’t get those eyes outta my mind. They just looked so….empty. Like the life had plumb been sucked outta them.

It always made me think of when Daisy had birthed a bum calf. We nursed her for a few days, but she just didn’t have the strength. When she died, I was the first to see her. I’d been haunted by those dead eyes every since.

That’s what theirs looked like, and I’d have given anything and faced a thousand hells just to see them smile.

Their Ma said it was the constant hunger. She said they cried and fussed a lot at first, but after a few months they just gave up. They stopped playing and would just wander around, looking all hollow-like.

So Ma wondered why our hens stopped layin’ as much, but those kids of our migrant workers started comin’ around. And when one of them smiled at me for the first time, all my worries about the torments of hell scattered from my mind.



I’ve fondled that picture so often through the years it’s curled and faded. It sits in my hand, a cold, stiff, lifeless tomb that cradles my memories.

But still my memories of her are warm, vibrant, euphoric. They leap from the paper and dance in my heart.

Color burns through the gray, revealing giggles and sighs. Smells of vanilla and fresh-cut hay waft through the creases. Secret glances across crowded rooms steal across the frozen image.

Remembering hands held lightly while meandering down dusty lanes helps me to forget, if only for the briefest of moments.

That was her idea, you know. A dare, really. That was her style. Walk thin lines on a whim, leave the broad and stable paths for the crowds.

I was content to follow her lead, though she depended on me to catch her when she fell — a balancing act that worked like a poet’s dream for 56 years.

But it was I who fell the day she stretched her wings, lifted from her throne, and disappeared into the clouds.

As I feel my fledgling wings form, I still follow her.


When a boy has lost his moorings
and buries pain behind,
His eyes lift seaward, pull him forward
to worlds where rules are scarce.

To worlds, cold and dangerous,
impervious to dependence
on brittle frames that shatter
at the slightest change in wind.

And so he surges forward,
fueled by anger, groping blindly
on paths uncharted, through fields unturned
in search of nothing, in search of all.

Finding Solace

Mae found studying the bricks more interesting and rewarding than her kitchen duties.

She came to know the hard and vertical landscape as well as she knew the backstreets of D.C. Each groove told a story, each chip her friend. The grey mortar spoke to her of duty in mournful yet assuring tones.

She snagged snippets of time under the pretense of “getting a bit of fresh air,” and, upon hearing an annoyed cry from inside, always felt torn from her explorations like a boy from play.

She had read the story up 18 bricks and across 37. Forcing herself to shuffle inside was becoming increasingly difficult.

The plot was thickening through the cracks, tension seeping through the pores, unpredictability frothing within the grooves. The vertical universe seemed to radiate, the energy pulling her as if into another dimension.

Aside from sharp, impatient criticisms, Mrs. Lewis never spoke to her. She said it was like talking to a wall.


Alice had always looked up to Ruth.

At 18, she was everything Alice wanted to be: gorgeous, vivacious, sophisticated, mysterious, alluring. All the boys stuttered and blushed when they talked to her. A wink and a nod from her and any one of them would do anything she asked.

Alice observed her carefully to follow her every move—the way she tossed her hair and giggled, how she applied make-up, the clothes she wore, even the words she used.

She was 32 years old, suffering through a loveless marriage in a dusty trailer park on the edge of town, before she realized that half the things Ruth had done were just to see what she could get away with and how many people would follow her.

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