Posts tagged Stephen
Posts tagged Stephen
The universe shifts around us and we experience it daily in our five major ways and ten thousand others that we haven’t named or don’t bother mentioning, but of all of those senses, you favored hearing. I told you once I prefer tasting— the spices on shrimp, the fire in whiskey, my childhood wrapped up in a chocolate milk, and my romance summarized in the taste of cherries on your lips — you laughed at me.
You said the word listen, then you didn’t say anything else. I waited and wondered what you’d say next, what argument you’d raise, what that imperative would bring with it, but you were silent. It bothered me for a second, as I thought you must be trying to perfect your case in your mind like your lawyer father, that you were getting ready to bury me in impenetrable logic. I was wrong. You didn’t want me to listen to your bickering over something so insignificant and variable as your favorite sense. You wanted me to listen to the world buzz around us.
There was music coming from somewhere nearby, a trumpet playing over speakers that crackled. A birdsong here, and a plane’s roar there. Wind moving leaves, a cough and godblessyou and a sniffle and a thank you, all in quick succession. A train, somewhere. A universe with a song to be heard and adored and reveled in.
With all that to hear, you didn’t have to say a word. Your case was made for you. All I had to do was listen.
Here, now, on the phone with the emergency room, I change my mind again. I’d valued my hearing for years now, listening with you to everything to be heard, but as the noises the doctor makes become words and take meaning and the message gets to me, I don’t want to hear anything.
Oh, these hallowed grounds, this cemetery sanctuary and holy hall of those who were and are no more. Their soldier steps are sacred, and their graves in a line and the words on their headstones are an unspoken prayer that their actions and tragedies, their losses and struggles and the battles that claimed them are lessons learned. Every cross is a desperate whisper that says to the deepest part of all of us, “Don’t let this happen again.”
We make myths of them, of our boys in blue or gray or green. Unknown soldiers and aces, corporals and colonels, gunslingers and gentleman, we stand silent in their shadows. They were only human, we’re not ashamed to admit, but how tall they stand in their statues, how square their jaws and how broad their shoulders. They were only human, yes, but who among us can with any dignity compare himself to the lowest of those fallen men?
They are the new Hellennes, our Ajax, our Achilles, our Odysseus. We make myths of men, and sing their songs and bury them in these hallowed grounds, but it is them that makes this place holy.
This one thing, an earring
Shining and silver and studded,
Is a piece of you, a piece of us,
And a piece of something that was
And is no more.
The rest is gone—
Tossed out, burned or forgotten.
But this one thing, this earring
Found a way to stay, to taunt me and say
That we— we are no more.
I hover over an open window,
Pause, trying to find the strength,
Not to throw it out, but to just let it go,
To let it fall below and vanish,
But I have no more.
I close a tight fist, ignore the blood it draws.
This one thing, the earring,
I have no more than this.
Around him, a city is humming with life and love and loss. A billion stories are being lived or being told or being written and he cannot number the days he has spent here and will spend here, nor the parts of his life defined by this place and its roads— the railroads and the river roads, the real roads and those that exist in metaphor alone. The forked roads, and the straight ones, those that curve, the dead ends, the detours and backroads and shortcuts. Today, though, clouded as it is by the smoke of another cigarette smoked and the haze of one drink too many, drank alone, he doesn’t recognize it. Clarity and familiarity and every other word of comfort must have graduated with you, and with her, and with all the rest of them. In different corners of different places, alumni are shaping new stories in new cities, having ended the ones that came before. They’ve finished stories that he, somehow, is left to occupy without the characters that made them worth telling and the places that shaped it all. What story is left for him to make? What remains that’s worth saying or doing without those who listened, once, or tagged along? A resume here and there, each with the words “education in progress” burned into them only brings memories of what was and is no more and the stories that are somehow over. It’s a strange city without you, a different place with a different feel. He’s not sure of where he’ll live, or what he’ll do, who he’ll know and love and drink with and sing to. The only thing he really knows is how much the alumni meant, how they shaped the place around him, and how much he misses them now, and will miss them in the days that come. A drink, then, the last one of a long night and the first sure thing in some time. Alone at a table, he raises a glass to the alumni, gone a year too soon.
It hinges on you and me
by Stephen N. Dethrage
I will see you today, or die on the rocks below.
It hinges on white sails on the seas.
I will release you now, or never again let you go.
It hinges on your lips and the seeds.
I will hold you tonight, or throw out a man I don’t know.
It hinges on the bow and its string.
I will know you are true, or watch you betray.
It hinges on my hair and the blade.
I will be eternally faithful, or keep you away.
It hinges on the lamp and the shade.
I will take flesh and love you, or a statue stay.
It hinges on the prayers that you’ve prayed.
by Stephen N. Dethrage
Bellow was the only word to describe what erupted from deep within him, in the dark quiet of his now lonely bedroom.
For years, he’d kept it inside, and it ate at him like the cancer that ate at his daughter.
For weeks, as her condition worsened, there were prayers, quick and hushed, and promises and bargains and trades offered to a silent deity, but outwardly he was solid, and strong, and sure, for the sake of himself and everyone around him.
For days, as she slipped further and further, then was wordlessly gone, off to take hands with her mother in whatever it was that waited beyond, a few solemn tears were the only sign he’d shone of the pain within, of its needles and razors and sawblades that shredded him inside when he least expected it.
And finally, in the quiet space of an empty room in an empty house filled by an empty man, with no one left to be strong for, what else could have happened? He erupted into ten thousand pieces, into a flash flood of pent up tears, and into a bellow that shook the walls and shook the man until there was nothing but echoes and sobs left in the room.
By: Stephen N. Dethrage
It’s not champagne if it’s not French, they tell me. If it’s not French, you’ve just got some kind of sparkling white wine in a bottle.
That’s what my dad told me, once, in a time of celebration, and it didn’t mean much to me then. When he handed the bottle to us, when there still was such a thing as “us,” and especially in the black months that followed when there wasn’t, I didn’t make time for champagne. I figured it was for toasts and parties and high class socials, and damn if I saw any reason for celebration. I was much more interested in rum, in whiskey, in vodka— in the dirty, common man throw-your-brains-up sort of drink, and I didn’t give a damn where the stuff came from. I was looking to get down and drown, not to float, gloat, boast or toast.
The disdain stuck with me, and years later I merely fingered my flute in the church after my service as best man at a friend’s wedding, all the while sneaking sips out of a flask of poison, and I shamelessly drank shots with my colleagues after my biggest promotion yet. Even then, the liquor spoke to me in ways that I figured some bubbly nonsense never could.
It took the rediscovery of love to rediscover that amber nectar, and more than a decade after my father told me of the necessity of French origins for true champagne, I knew when I booked a two-week honeymoon that it had to be in Paris, and not London or Scotland, or on some beach or a mountain. I knew that love, the sacred thing that I’d submerged in endless fifths of Jack Daniels, deserved the sanctification of several bottles of this sweet, sweet champagne.