Consider this: a white vase of red roses, sitting stately
upon a table, greeting the dawn, casting up its song
of fragrance. One day, a careless wind, an earthquake,
or an errant cat’s paw sends the vase tumbling:
prisoners of a reckless plummet to the ground,
the roses cannot stop their fall –
and the vase shatters into fragments and dust
that will meet and rejoin the earth it once rose from.
Or consider this: we reach out for a familiar hand one day
and the next, we barely feel the whisper of its fingertips
sliding past our own as it falls away, just out of
our grasp: and we marvel at the lack of fingerprints,
of the warmth of a palm, or of the barely captured memory
of knuckles and joints negotiating the turns, bends, and angles
required in the simple act of clasping a hand.
Roses leave no ghosts, and spirits leave no shadows.
The only signs of their existence live behind our eyes,
inside the attics enclosed by walls made of bone and
stuffed with keepsakes and moving film. And as we live,
we fill each other’s attics with stacks of old Polaroids,
boxes of bric-a-brac, trunks of old books, and
canisters of home movies on Super 8, curled up and sleeping,
waiting to uncoil and come to life.
Once we slip off these skin robes and exit, all of the
virtu, photographs, and film are stolen away with us,
housed behind a red door, carried as unseen binary code
imprinted upon our spirits. And who will read the code,
edit the films, or frame the photos?
Who will finish our unheard testimonies then?
Who will create and post our signs when the message is gone,
standing behind a glass wall, staring across a chasm
unheard, unseen, and unread by the living?
We are little creators — yes, even little craftsmen who
have wrought something new out of the stuff
in our attics. We can remove the dams and let our love
flood the space around us, giving our fellow itinerants
water to drink and relief from the unforgiving sun overhead. We can
pour our wine into the chalice and pass it around
in fellowship. But when will the chalice fall from our
trembling hands, or the snow-covered mountain break apart
and die, unable to feed the river’s streams again? We do not
know. After all, no one posts a sign in your backyard
to tell you when it is your time to go.
© 2012 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
This poem was not specifically written for the We Write Poems Signs Prompt, but I am sharing it as my offering for it this week.
I actually wrote it to read at a memorial service for a family member who recently died. I must be totally honest — this person and I never got along so I find myself with conflicting feelings about their death. Typically, elegies can honor the person they are written for or express grief and sadness at their passing — and this poem does neither. Instead, I chose to focus on how without warning, life can suddenly end — we don’t get an advanced sign from the Gods that our time is up. And since this person became ill and then died suddenly, I feel that this is the most appropriate thing that I can take away from this person’s death.
I believe that the best things we can do, knowing that our time can be up in an instance, is to give, love, and contribute something positive while we are still here. I hope you enjoyed the poem. Can you read the signs?