This was written for Read Write Poem Prompt # 112: The Narrative Wallpaper. I decided to continue the story from last week’s poem, Endgame. I wanted to see what happened to the speaker in the poem. I looked at a stretch of highway near where I lived and tried to capture how it looked a couple of mornings ago — then, I used it as a backdrop for the poem/story.




I watch alien armies of metal men raise
morning above the mist, which itself floats
delicate and dangerous above the freeway. They are
lined up, perfect poles stuck in stationary, rooted in
the cement wall that splits this asphalt in two. First, a line of
grey dancers, poised with arms in a double arc like
wings spread. They hold a yellow streetlight in each palm like a
pair of strange pale eyes above the freeway. Ahead of them,
in single file, the sentinel sadhus: thin like death, each holding
a lantern high above their headless necks with a single curved arm
like an upside down question. Truthfully, those arms are
not even curved, but rather hard and angled like
c-clamps trying to hold on to pieces of the sky, which looks like Mars
in grayscale. It’s frozen, heavy, and February – and has
forgot how to be spectrum, how to
smear blood, orange, violet, and turquoise to
greet the birth of day. Then I remember: this is Columbus, Ohio. They
haven’t invented color yet here, except for an
eye-bruising shade of football scarlet to match all this

The upside down questions above the necks of
those light post holy men betray my own mind. I know that
crucifixion is the easy part: you drink until the demons
stop dancing in your skull. And when they
come back to build bonfires behind your eyes, you
drink again. And again. And again. You keep drinking
until the nails bury through your hands, your feet. And you
stay up there, on the wood, turning your throat inside out to bake it
bare, parched, and clean beneath Death’s sun. But resurrection
is the tough part. I know that somehow, I rose from the dead
back in Arizona, wrapped in hospital linens. I’ll never know
who found me lying face down in the cradle of Monument
Valley. I’ll never know who took me down, who pulled me away from the
teeth of the wood of my cross. But I still drag an invisible cord
with a severed and crying neck behind me – it was ripped
out of the desert floor. I am a walking ghost. I have
the nail prints in my hands to prove it.

Now, on this bus, I am tracing
the road to Emmaus into my brain, watching the steel and light pilgrims
dance as we pass them. I lean into the elbow, into the
crook of the arm of my window seat on this bus. The window glass
plays cold and frosty against my cheek, bearing the fog
of my breath on its face. We’ve just crossed the outerbelt, and I
pull myself away from the gentle smoke of sleep. We
pull into the bus station in ten minutes, and my
uncle will be waiting for me. I wonder if his arms will be enough
to hold me, a worn out rag doll, disinfected and fresh
from ninety days of rehab. Some nights, I still dream
of the dust of that desert.

Written 2/1/10 and 2/3/10
© 2010 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.

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About ravenswingpoetry

I am a 38 year old writer from Columbus, OH and the creator of Raven's Wing Poetry. I am a poet, seeker, fellow traveler, and autistic.
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11 Responses to Emmaus

  1. I love the images you conjure up, especially in the first part of the poem. When I read them I always have to really stop, read aloud and concentrate to get the image, but it’s so much worth the effort. Thank you.

  2. derrick2 says:

    Hi Nicole,

    Poor Columbus, Ohio! Hopefully, the Tourist Board doesn’t see your poems?! Such a strong story once again. I love the sentinel sadhus, the colours that the birth of day can’t produce and the line ” I/pull myself away from the gentle smoke of sleep”. Let’s hope the uncle’s arms are strong enough.

  3. Paul Oakley says:

    I love the way “Emmaus” plays with doubt, Nicole. Crucifixion and resurrection, all as improbable as they are, are finished, but the road to Emmaus is a road of both miracle and doubt. Very nice integration of gospel and an uncertain contemporary reality.

    I particularly love these lines:

    …I wonder if his arms will be enough
    to hold me, a worn out rag doll, disinfected and fresh
    from ninety days of rehab…

  4. From now on, I think I’ll just come here instead of using any kind of “word generator”… the ones you come up with and the contexts they live in are just so much more interesting. 😉

    I’m glad you continued that previous story; keep the narratives alive! (And alive this is indeed, it has a heartbeat and nervous system and so many intricate parts…) There’s an Emmaus not far (well, a couple hours) from here. It’s about the last town I’d expect to see anyone rise from the dead.

  5. It’s fascinating to me that for the narrator wallpaper prompt, you continued a narration started in your last poem! And that you continued the story in order to find out what would happen to the narrator! Yes, we writers sometimes write in order to discover what’s going to happen next in the story. So you have really intuited a charateristic aspect of narrative poetry — it’s often longish, with many parts or episodes or scenes. In this poem, I see the question-mark sentinel poles as somehow similar to the snakes in your last poem. This image is truly unforgettable, epic : “me lying face down in the cradle of Monument Valley.”

  6. Lovely and moving. Superb!


  7. Wayne says:

    I really liked your continuation…a great read again Nicole…thanks for sharing your words….cheers from the Rocky mountains

  8. Irene says:

    Your epic poems really weave…I like how you end it here.

    I wonder if his arms will be enough
    to hold me, a worn out rag doll, disinfected and fresh
    from ninety days of rehab. Some nights, I still dream
    of the dust of that desert.

  9. Pingback: Phantasmagoria « Raven’s Wing Poetry

  10. Pingback: Phantasmagoria « Raven's Wing Poetry Test Blog

  11. Hello all. Thank you for coming by, reading, and commenting.

    @Matt: Thank you for stopping by! I guess my method of writing is trying to take what I see in my brain and put it into words. I tend to think in images…could be because that’s how I’m wired. The difficulty has always been in the translation. That’s why I keep trying.

    @Derrick: Seriously, that’s how Columbus looks to me sometimes in the winter…as if the only colors that exist here are scarlet and gray. I live in a town of sports fanatics. What can I say?

    @Therese and Wayne: I felt the urge to continue the story from last time, because as I’ve said, maybe this is a weird way of me trying to rescue or help the person I knew a long time ago…because I wasn’t around when he lost the fight.

    @Irene: I wanted a certain amount of uncertainty…like it’s not quite a happy ending. I know I typically end my poems somewhat happy (although that’s not a strict use of the word, considering how dark my work tends to be) — like the narrator lived in the last poem. I think if he had died in “Endgame”, there would have been no point to writing the poem. But not everything is so neat and tidy in life, hence the need to replicate these uncertainties and realisms in art.

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