Quietly

There are places we go
That forever stay
There are feelings
That leave with no goodbye
And it’s in the midst of these
Indefinable points of
.     latitude and longitude
We grieve
.     quietly.

In the smallest smiles
And words unsaid
Lie the broken chords
That will never be tuned
And in the discordance
The sustained hum of harmonies
.     straining for resolution
We thrum
.     quietly.

So step beyond the pale
And drink to the moon
Toast the holy, silent night
With unsung screams of
.     fractured dreams
And listen
As the universe leans in
And sings with you
.     quietly.
-ijs

***
author’s note: Forgive the weird formatting with the floating periods. I couldn’t figure out how to indent single lines without indenting the entire paragraph, and when I tried to “space-bar in” a blank space instead, the lines just ended up going back to left-justified. So if anyone out there knows how to indent single lines, I’d love to learn some WordPress magic.
Thanks!

The Postcard – a short story

tunnel

Eighteen inches of reinforced concrete. Capable of reducing a vehicle to a crumpled shell; human inhabitants obliterated, sternums fractured, massive blunt-force head trauma, catastrophic internal hemorrhaging.

We crested the hill, drifting across the lanes on the final curve to catch another touch of speed. Carter negotiated the turn then allowed the car to straddle the center line. A quarter mile ahead the bridge squatted. Two narrow lanes burrowed under the railroad tracks. Two lanes split by a barrier wall—eighteen inches of reinforced concrete.

“Call it,” Carter said.

I sat.

Those eighteen inches raced towards us.

I sat.

Carter stared through the windshield. The two gaping holes in the hill stared back.

I sat.

Carter’s fingers tightened on the wheel. I was cutting it close. I knew it. But that feeling of being in control—knowing when I’d make the call while he sat waiting, waiting, insides screaming at me to call it before we—

“Left.”

The car jerked in his hands and leapt to zero in on the left side of the tunnel. I could almost hear the concrete’s disappointed sigh as it buzzed by, flirting with the passenger side mirror before the tunnel coughed us back out into the night.

He let loose a low whistle. “Geez. Waited long enough, didn’tcha?”

“That’s gotta be a new record.” It was closer than I’d planned, I was surprised he’d actually held out for the call.

“If we’re gonna break that then you’re driving and I’m calling next time.”

Suicide Bridge. It was a morbid yet fitting nickname. Sometimes when I’d be driving that road alone late at night, I’d find myself drifting into center almost out of habit, waiting for Carter’s voice to call the lane decision, knowing he wasn’t there, knowing I had to make the call, had to make it before leaning into those eighteen inches, embracing oblivion. There was a reason I didn’t drive that stretch of road for a long time. Sometimes the temptation started sounding a little too logical . . .

***

The glasses clink as he sets them on the battered end table. The bourbon splashes, rye harmony on crystal.

“Cheers, bro.” He nudges a glass my way, and I raise it to meet his. The years have been good to Carter. The cancer has not.

“Cheers.”

We sit on the front porch. The summer night settles around us. The squeak of his rocking chair marks a quiet tempo against the echoing calls of the tree frogs down the hill below us. I nurse my drink, the heat radiating up my chest to meet the warm buzz on my tongue. The blanket of night settles deeper, a comforter tenderly tucked in by a mother humming lullabies of long-forgotten dreams.

“Thanks for bringing the card.”

I tip my glass, “Glad to.”

He stares out into the night and I wait. He refills his glass, sips, coughs. It’s a tearing sound I’ll remember as long as I live, rusty razor blades shaking in rotten burlap.

“Doctor said I’ve got six weeks. Ten tops.”

I reach for the bottle, absorbing this. “Last time we talked you said twelve months.”

“I know. Damn cancer got all motivated I guess.” He tries to laugh. I wish he wouldn’t.

“And that’s why you wanted me to come.”

“Yeah.”

“So there’s really nothing more they can do—“

He shakes his head. “I told them they can go stick some other poor fool, but I’m done. They got all uppity, but I walked myself right out of there and told ’em ‘no deal.’ They send somebody around every other day to check in on me. It’s better this way.”

I don’t argue. There’s nothing to argue about. We’ve always been straight with each other, and if there’s nothing for it, then that’s how it is, no charades, just the plain ol’ truth, slam bam thank you ma’am.

“How bad is it?”

He looks at me and part of my soul crawls away into a corner and dies. If you could open me up and look inside, you’d find the corners of my heart littered with little bits of dead soul; it’s part of what makes growing old so hard. But this is the biggest piece yet. I don’t think there’s much left now.

It’s late when I leave. Orion is slipping into the horizon, the tree frogs all long since gone to sleep, the only sound the quiet hum of the wind walking in the willows along the creek.

I hug Carter, “I’ll see ya.”

“Yep, I’ll see ya.”

We both know it’s a lie.

***

The dial tone broke the silence.

“Hello? This is Brian Shaw. I need to report an OD.”

“ — “

“Yes, that’s correct. You have the address?”

“ — “

“I’d guess last night. He’s in his chair, looks like he’s sleeping.”

“ — “

“No. The pill bottle is right beside him.”

“ — “

“A note? Well, he’s holding a postcard but there’s nothing written on it.”

“ — “

“Yeah, I’m sure. It’s just a blank postcard with a bridge on it.”

-ijs

*Author’s note: the point of this story is neither to argue for nor against the decision of suicide, but rather to process why someone might make such a decision in the final stages of their life. This article hit me hard while I was in the process of writing.

Return to the Garden – short film

Excited to share this new short film from the team at VCE Productions. For their first real narrative short, Erik Parks and Jake Hutchison crafted a poignant, heart-felt story.

I can’t say enough about my co-star Allee-Sutton Hethcoat. She brought a sensitivity and openness that was a joy to watch. We laughed . . . we cried . . . we had a blast.

Enjoy.

return to the garden

Gravity

gravity

Some day gravity will die
The moon will break her bonds
Deserted beaches left haunted
Abandoned
Gaunt
And echoing the sun’s flaming
Dying
Symphony
A blood-red catastrophe
Of grandeur
Saturn’s rings shattering
Splattering
Stardust across the galaxies
The morning star will wink
Flutter
Stutter
Never again to awaken
The sandman will empty his glass
Spilling soulless grains into oblivion
But in the infinite obsidian
Lost meridians
I’ll dream again
Because I’ll never stop falling in love with you.
-ijs

Those Dusty Cowboy Boots

bootsJust a country boy from Tennessee
A guy with nothing to lose
The night I saw her walk in
Wearing those dusty cowboy boots.

The way she danced
Know she wasn’t tryin’ to seduce
Just couldn’t say no to her
Her
And those dusty cowboy boots.

Gave her my heart since I didn’t have a lot
“It’s a gift
But it’s all I got”
And she stopped my excuse
Leaned up
Kissed me
In those dusty cowboy boots.

Watched her wave when I left
Bound half a world away
Carrying skills
She prayed I’d never have to use
Remember how she stood there
In her dusty cowboy boots.

Bleeding out now
(luck runs out)
A victim of this war’s abuse
Staring at that picture of her one more time–
Of her in those dusty cowboy boots.

When they play Taps
And put me under in my blues
Hand you that flag
Baby
Wear those dusty cowboy boots.

I won’t say don’t cry
While you say your goodbye
’cause everyone’s gotta die
Take that last ride into the sky–
But when you come baby
I’ll be waiting
I’ll be watching
I’ll be listening for you
And we’ll scuff those golden streets together
In our dusty cowboy boots.
-ijs

Come Drive This Road with Me

driving 2

Sun-kissed west, dying, gossamer
Diamonds on my window screen
Come with me, darling, oh come on
Come drive this road with me.

Can’t believe you’re with me here
And we’re just runnin’ free
Breathe with me, darling, oh come on
Come drive this road with me.

Knew when I saw you. Lost, undone
No more solo life for me
No choice, darling, oh come on
Come drive this road with me.

The games we played, hunter and prey
First kiss under an old ash tree
Another, darling, oh come on
Come drive this road with me.

Crazy love, I wrapped you up
Nights tossed between the sheets
I’ll take you, darling, oh come on
Come drive this road with me.

They told us no, they tried to stop what
Fate had meant to be
Forget them, darling, oh come on
Come drive this road with me.

Close your eyes, I’ll watch the road
I’ll watch the clock turn three
I’ll watch you, darling, oh come on
Come drive this road with me.

Dark night detours, thunderstorms
It’s only just debris
I’ll fight, darling, oh come on
Come drive this road with me.

Morning’s coming, trust me dear,
Lightning splits the ebony sea
Just hold my hand, darling, come on
And drive this road with me.
– ijs