Prosery: The Pink Rose

It’s not Marie.

This young man was twice her size, a walking geometry problem composed of long parallel lines and spare angles. Well-worn hiking boots encased his large feet, and a dusty pack perched on his back.

Flight or fight? I wondered, as he approached.

“Excuse me,” he said. His French carried an American accent. “Does this old place have a name?”

Perhaps he was what he seemed, a backpacker seeing France. “I don’t know,” I said, while staring at his backpack.

“Everyone comments on the rose,” he laughed. “It looks like the one embroidered on my blanket when I was found as a baby. It’s the shade of first dawn, a promise. I want to hope everything I do is stitched with its color.”

I smiled politely, but a warning bell clamored in my brain.
The pink rose had been our network’s symbol.

For dVerse Prosery. I’m continuing my series, beginning again with the last line of the previous episode. The prompt line is “Everything I do is stitched with its color” by
W.S. Merwin.
from his poem “Separation.” Lisa has chosen such a beautiful line.

Scattered Steps: Prosery

Edward Hopper, “Automat,” 1927

“Tell me! What people?” I’m frantic, barely giving Marie a chance to reply.

Again, she warns, “it’s not safe here. Meet me at the old mill tomorrow at noon. You remember? Make sure you’re not followed now—or tomorrow.”

She practically pushes me out the door, murmuring nonsense about visiting Auntie soon, in case anyone is listening. She really is scared.

I don’t see anyone, but it’s getting dark. I gaze up at the stars, wishing I could walk in the street of the sky. Night walks scattering poems, I think. Here on earth, less pleasant things are scattered, like—oh no–as I feel the squish under my shoes and smell dog poop. It’s going to be one of those nights. I remind myself, I’ve had worse. I head to a café, order a bottle of wine, and pour the first glass.

A continuation of my spy series for Prosery on dVerse. Linda asked us to use this line by E.E. Cummings: “In the street of the sky night walks scattering poems.” I’ve continued this from where I left off in September.

We’ll Make Our Garden Grow: Prosery

We’ll Make Our Garden Grow

“Marie? I thought you were dead. Is it really you?” I ask.

“It is. I was shot and left for dead. Some of the others rescued me, but I couldn’t trust anyone. I ran, changing my identity more often than my clothes.”

She glances at me. “You always did like to make an entrance,” she says, referring to my fall, “but people have noticed your questions. We’ll talk, but quickly. I’m afraid it’s not safe here now for either of us.”

The sweet scent of alyssum drifts through the open window. Marie’s vegetable garden helped all of us stay alive during the war. I remember her saying, “I’d like, too, to plant the sweet alyssum that smells like honey. And peace. I’d scatter peace seeds everywhere if I could.” With her green thumb, peace would have flourished.

Her comment suddenly registers, “Wait—what people?”

This post begins with the last line of my previous prosery post. the continuation of my rambling who-knows-where-it’s-going spy series for dVerse Prosery. The prompt line was:

“I’d like, too, to plant the sweet alyssum that smells like honey and peace.”
From Katherine Riegel, What I would like to Grow in My Garden

Leonard Bernstein conducts “Make Our Garden Grow” from his Candide.

Something about the Moon

Edvard Munch, “Moonlight”

Something about the Moon

Sometimes good glows like a beacon, even in the evilest times. It’s the lopsided grin of the moon beaming through treetops. That moon and I became old friends. It made me feel the world would go on, even if I didn’t survive. But there were good people, too. One of them was Marie. I’m headed to her old farm now, hoping to find some clues.

As I turn from the dirt road, I see the old house is still standing. I walk around to the back door, stumble, and . . .

am lost in swirling images and memories. Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings a children’s song. Marie drove us crazy singing Au Clair de la Lune over and over.

I open my eyes. Look at the woman standing beside me, “Marie? I thought you were dead.”

For dVerse prosery, continuing my spy series. Using the line, “Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—” from Oliver Wendell Holmes. I made up Marie singing, and then discovered there’s a real song that fits.

Haunted

Edward Hopper, New York Movie, 1939

Haunted

During the war we talked about “after,” but we didn’t realize that for some of us, there will never be an after. I remember one survivor who said the past was like a festering wound, but “she’d had it sliced away–leaving a scar, it’s true, but barely noticeable.” She said, “You cover it up and go about your life.”

But at night, I’d hear her tossing and turning, and sometimes crying. I recognized it for what it was—the past haunting her. It doesn’t go away. It’s a movie playing on an endless, repeating loop. It’s a ghost that visits each night, or an illness. Paul is that ghostly contagion. He haunts me at night, visits me in my dreams, and he’s infected me with dangerous thoughts. Sometimes I’m no longer sure if what I did was right.

It’s Prosery time at dVerse, flash fiction of no more than 144 words using the given poetic prompt line. This is another episode of my ongoing (and going, where is it going?) spy series. Sarah has asked us to use the line:

“she’d had it sliced away leaving a scar”.

From a poem by Michael Donaghy. You can read the original poem here: https://rihlajourney.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/liverpool-michael-donaghy/

No Answers: Prosery

Edward Hopper, “Automat,” 1927

We heard about D-Day, of course, we heard. It was the beginning of the end, though we didn’t know it then—not for certain. We didn’t know if it was permanent. I was cut-off from information like everyone else. In the ensuring months of battle, I faced uncertainty—and fear. And then, finally, I was safe in body, if not in mind. I still didn’t know if I’d been betrayed. What was I supposed to do with that? Finally an end to war, yet amidst the cheering for liberation, there was still devastation and loss. What were we to do with our ghosts? What were we to do with starvation, the many who traded sex with strapping American soldiers for a meal? These are the things they don’t tell us. I went home, but the past is a hunter, stalking us, taking us unaware.

For dVerse Prosery, Lisa has asked us to this line:

“These are the things they don’t tell us.”
– Girl Du Jour, from Notes on Uvalde

She has posted the poem on the prompt page. I’ve used the line to continue my Prosery spy series. Today, June 6, 2022, is the 78th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied forces landed in Normandy, in the invasion that led to the end of the Nazi occupation of France. This year, 98-year-old American veteran Charles Shay said:

“Ukraine is a very sad situation. I feel sorry for the people there and I don’t know why this war had to come, but I think the human beings like to, I think they like to fight. I don’t know,” he said. “In 1944, I landed on these beaches and we thought we’d bring peace to the world. But it’s not possible.”

All the Haunted Mays: Prosery

Winslow Homer, On the Hill

All the Haunted Mays

I’m coming.

Despite my brave words, I don’t feel like a hawk. I’m a hummingbird flying backwards into the past. Remember that one perfect May Day when we forgot the war, the occupation, and our unending nightmare world? We shared a baguette that was almost edible and a semi-drinkable bottle of wine, as we pretended the safe house was ours. I wasn’t Nighthawk then either. We were simply Julia and Paul in love–or so I wanted to believe.

I can’t change the past, but I must discover the truth to live in the present. I will find you. I must find you and talk to you face-to-face. For how can I be sure? I shall see again the world on the first of May, or I’ll perish in the attempt. I refuse to be haunted by ghosts any longer. I choose the living.

This is another installment of my non-linear spy tale. Here is a link to the previous one. I’m hosting Prosery on dVerse today. The prompt line to be included within a prose piece is

“For how can I be sure
I shall see again
The world on the first of May”
From “May Day” by Sara Teasdale

Black Holes and Brown Paper Moons: Prosery

Winslow Homer, Moonlight, Wood Island

History, I think, is light trapped in a black hole. It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. Perhaps our love was also like that; something I did not see clearly then. Though how could I, or anyone, see beyond the occupation? Peace was a mirage, as was feeling comfortable. Still, we chased it. We were hiking an unmarked trail with hidden turns, pursued by beasts more horrible than any found in a fairy tale because they were human. And were you one of them? You were a shapeshifter with many names. Oh, I was a shapeshifter, too–perhaps we all were. I tell myself at night that I was working for good.

What do you tell yourself, Paul?

They said you’re dead, but I sense you out there. In my haunted dreams, I feel your presence—somewhere. Watch for me. I’m coming.

A continuation of my non-linear spy series for dVerse, Prosery using the line: “It is a moon wrapped in brown paper” from Carol Ann Duffy’s poem, Valentine.

The Time Before: Prosery

It’s difficult now to remember the time before. Before war, before I knew the evil that humans can inflict–when my worries consisted merely of studying and passing exams. I was determined to prove that I was as brilliant as any man, smarter, in fact. But that day, the dandelion sun glowed, white seed clouds drifted in the azure sky, and reflections floated languidly on the river. Laura begged me to join the rest of the group for a picnic, and I’d agreed, even as she threatened me with the admonition, “and bring no book, for this one day, we’ll give to idleness.” How young and carefree we were, lolling on the grass like the figures in an Impressionist painting, but all clothed. Or mostly.

Laura, Keith, John—all of them gone, victims of war. And I’m left, still searching for answers.

And revenge.

A flash fiction piece for dVerse, Monday where Ingrid asks us to use the lines:

“And bring no book, for this one day
We’ll give to idleness”
— William Wordsworth, “Lines Written at a Small Distance from my House”

My spy series doesn’t seem to follow any order, but we’ll just say this is a part of it.

I couldn’t resist adding these photos from Grounds for Sculpture that recreate Edouard Manet’s “Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe” (1863).

I see them

Edward Hopper, “Automat,” 1927

I see them at night.

You may say they’re not real, but in the dark hours when you’re not sure if dawn will truly come, they’re as real as anything else. Wraiths, spirits, ghosts? Or the manifestation of a troubled mind? Survivor’s guilt the psychiatrist called it. I have witnessed true evil, and now I carry it with me, always ticking, like a pocket watch that never needs winding. It counts the minutes and hours till I see those tortured souls. Yet, they’re with me always. I dress in their stories patterned and purple as night. I wear them like a second skin.

I’ll never know if I might have saved more people–only that I was betrayed, and that I was fortunate enough to escape. Finding my betrayer has become my purpose for living. In the meantime, I see the dead. Every night.

(144 words)

A continuation of my disjointed, non-linear spy series for Prosery where Lisa is hosting. The line she selected is:

“I dress in their stories patterned and purple as night.”
–Kimberly Blaeser, “When We Sing of Might”