It was a sea of people, swaying with wine. Finger food passing along the crests like delicate foam crustaceans. A celebration of the poets’ ephemeral regard in this world of hard liquor, soft food and mountains to climb.
He bobbed along, begrudging the humility it required of him to tread water in such a crowd. She couldn’t help but notice, his imperial crown shining so high above the waves. He looked tired from it all, but unwilling to forgo the possibility of recognition, she supposed.
She herself stayed small in her web of indefinable, relentless fear of the unknown, yet enjoying the sloshing sounds of her fellow swimmers. Mouth shut against the surging grape, she ducked the delicacies being passed, as it were, under the noses of so many potential sneezes. Even when hungry, some things were just a no-go.
And suddenly, it happened.
The prince of the pool, the one who’s face she had sought out all evening long just for the pleasure of wondering, was peering at her. Her knees wobbled. He reached his hand down and she reached hers up. A giant’s baseball mitt, warm with purpose, swallowing her own.
I must leave now, he said after they shared a quick dip beneath shallow banter, deep enough to glimpse the bubbles of aquatic life thriving below. And he sailed forth, a little piece of her light grasped in his mighty paw.
The next time they met it was for tea. He had softened. His eloquent roar rumbled through her in whispers, careful not to startle. She was after all considerably smaller than he.
I must warn you, she announced after the fourth or fifth undeniable internal flutter had tipped her determined composure on to the table, alarming her every time. I am all caught up in a mission. I’m not available for small talk.
I don’t small talk, the poet giant huffed.
In any event, she countered. Things are not what they seem.
What do you mean?
Forces beyond my control have pounded, like an anvil to steel, the me in me.
That would explain your shortness of height, he observed. Yet compact.
So now you know, she explained. My coils need to spring and it may not be pretty. And she hurried away before he could capture any more of her light than was available.
He caught up and loped along beside her. Perhaps I’ll just keep you company.
Only if you’re prepared for possible disappointment.
Hmmmm he hummed, shortening his step to keep from outdistancing her.
You’re very plucky for one who barely reaches my knees, he said.
It comes with the territory.
And so they sallied forth, the wind lifting her off the pavement from time to time. Snow descending like ferocious prayers. He clasped her arm to his side to keep her from sailing into the blurry darkness. The safeness she felt from that determined clutch shocked her.
You feel as though your bones might snap.
That’s the electricity, she said. I can’t shut if off. It runs through me like high voltage wires and leeches my calcium. Not to mention heightens my heart rate.
That sounds exhausting he said.
It surely is, she agreed.
He recited poetry (his own) Beaudelaire, Descartes, Dylan; he wove elements of lightheartedness, lifejoy and song into veils that descended upon her like kisses. He looked down on her tired fragile self stoically keeping up with him and said
I will gladly carry you on my shoulders.
No thank you, she replied politely.
You will have a much better view and it will ease your stride, he gently prodded.
I have to do it myself, she said.
But she sneaked a longing peak up at his broad shoulders and sighed.
Their next meeting transpired in a cemetery.
So you see, she said, craning her head up to look into his ancient eyes. I have to go underground.
But why he asked, missing her already.
To help heal the cultural wound of the feminine.
Well that sounds a bit large for a tiny person. And if you don’t mind my saying so, perhaps inflated.
Fine. I have to fix Me and before he could steal a kiss from her determined little face she had burrowed a hole into the cold hard earth and the last he saw of her were her tiny feet, kicking up bone garments.
Can’t I help you, he called into the dark tunnel.
No. But thank you for your offer.
It was cold above and below.
The poet giant hovered over the split earth. Anxious and lonely. The moon rose, casting soulful shadows across the white dusted tombstones and pebbled earth.
I’m sending you moonbeams, he called into the crevice.
Thank you, her tiny voice squeaked out from far below.
I’m sending you sweet ease. And hum!
I appreciate that, came the muted reply.
And so he hummed.
He strummed and hummed as he flapped his big arms to keep warm under the cold sun’s sister moon. His shadow engulfed him with its hawk wings, so he danced to its mighty grace.
As dawn cracked across the trees’ barren beauty, he bent to the hole and with the steam of his breath clouding his cheeks, whistled a tarantella to his friend below. But no reply came.
He sent kisses into the cold void, collected his heart’s ache, declared Time to eat! And off he went.
She herself had come up against rock. All of her burrowing – bleeding her nails, suffocating her nose, scratching her sight – had turned up little more than familiar dirt and chips of stone. She was depleted. It was too cold and too dark. She’d not been prepared for Claustrophobia. Fear pumped through her crunched limbs. She wanted out.
She wanted a drink.
The dreams began. Demons familiar and strange screeching through her memory, abducting her courage, taunting her with forgotten sights, sounds, smells, touch. She squirmed and fought in her earth bound cell, tearing skin against bone, breath against howl. The stepping-stones of her decades revealing themselves owned and ordered by vicious masters who had cloaked themselves. Soul betrayers in lamb’s wool, her lamb’s blood dripping from their lips.
He meanwhile, grateful for the sun of the warming days, had been gathering moss. Planting it here, placing it there. Giving it away to those elderly who could not stoop to its soft reminder.
He played his guitar, wrote rhyme for his secret love hidden in the winter/ spring’s harsh womb and thanked the stars for their jewellery.
And one night as he gazed out his window into the depths of night’s mystery he heard her terrified scream. He galloped through the streets alight with electricity’s constant reminders, the streets quiet with sleep, the streets alive with darkness’s covert ills, entered the mausoleum’s embrace, knelt by the gash his beloved had crawled through and called down to her.
Silence rang the stones’ carved memories.
Bereft, he waited. Light peeked into the receding night, warmed his face, gave him hope.
He pressed his ear to the ground. Placed his open palm to the birthing earth. Breathed his heart through the pores of burgeoning spring and waited.
I’m scared, he finally heard.
I know, he breathed back. Let me help you.
I don’t know how.
Daylight, filled with spring’s longing, flooded the pathway. He sat up, collected buds and branches, worms and tiny light filled leaves, pebbles and dirt, and patiently sat weaving. Weaving while he sang. Songs of life. Songs of hope. Songs of beauty. Songs of pain’s strength. Songs of love. All sung into the weaving of nature’s delicate ladder. And when it was long enough, he hummed while filtering it carefully into the dark funnel of her journey. It took days for it to reach her.
Fingertips shredded, heart crushed, body leached, she scratched one last, ruined mark into the relentless rock.
And finally a trickle. Water dripping oxygen. She scratched again. And it gushed. The sword and dagger and bomb sites of her body washed with the earths blood. The walls of her tomb muddied and expanded, allowing her space in which to stretch. And she slept, a heartbeat beneath her, lulling.
She awoke to a tickle at her toe.
It was a slug, examining her with its slimy feet, hanging from the rung of a delicate ladder. Light trickled down the tunnel to her shimmering bath.
Lying on the newly spring scented earth, the top rung of his beautiful ladder tucked under his cheek, the poet giant was awakened from his slumber by a tug. Alert in an instant, he carefully grasped its ends and held firm as it innards were pulled toward the depth, one cautious step at a time, until a hand, gnarled with dirt and other, reached from the bowels. He clasped it, a rush of relief escaping him, and without even being asked, without even asking if he could, used his mighty weight to pull her free.
She shielded her eyes, the sun painful in its sudden light, catching her breath.
You’re covered in earth, he said fondly.
He lay down beside her, careful not to startle. Waited. Waited until their breathing was in unison, then he carefully, mindfully place his large, life-filled palm on her hand.
Shall we go now?
And he gently helped her to her feet.
But! he stood rooted in amazement. What has happened to you?
I don’t rightly know, she said.
Sun shot through her wet hair, her shining eyes.
You no longer stand as high as my hip, he declared.
And she opened her eyes fully, to see. Tilting her head up to his astonished face, she smiled. Proudly.
No, she replied, Now I reach your heart.
He took her arm, clasped it securely and protectively to his side and they faced forward together into the warming day.
Hmmmmm …hmmmm …hmmm he hummed as they strolled. Hmmmm … hmmmm …
Finally he just had to say
I missed you.
Yes, she said.
And I missed you, she whispered. They glanced sideways at each other, their hearts singing secretly within.
But, she said softly, and he tensed.
I think I have to go back.
His breath caught in his throat.
When? he almost coughed the word.
I don’t know yet.
But … he paused, not wanting to offend …
I’m not finished yet, she said softly. And … I think I’m supposed to leave something there.
What would that be?
I don’t know yet.
He lifted his chin, looked straight ahead.
I honour that, he confirmed. And his self dropped deeper within him.
And they both breathed deeply, inhaling the newness of life as it sprung around them. The colours, vibrant. The sounds of birds fussing toward birth, exciting. Traffic getting louder as they neared the street.
Hmmmmmm … hmmm
So, may I ask? …
What did you learn down there?
I don’t know yet.
But when I find out I will write it to you in a poem, she added.
Will you read it out loud to me? he looked down at her shyly.
Perhaps, looking into his tender eyes.
She smiled. He smiled.
Would you care to dance?
But first, she stated, I want to EAT!
Excellent! he bellowed.
And they talked about Food as they passed stop signs and crosswalks.
In that very moment, happy.