Whoda thunk that the Phoenix would rise from its ashes in Moscow!
Tis true. A Word with You Press is back on line with a permafrost–oops!–permanent address in Moscow.
We have a backlog of entries into our contest that honors Peggy Dobbs and uses as its prompt: “I swear, it’s not too late.”
Our first posting is from Kristy Webster, who would very much like to reconnect with all of you after a hiatus of a year or two. Kristy is a brilliant writer and artist and some-time contributor to the word. For those of you unfamiliar with the site, we sponsor contests on a regular basis but you must write to a specific prompt. Somewhere within you entry you must include the words “I swear, it’s not too late.”
It is certainly not too late for Kristy to be welcomed back into the clan. We have missed you, my dear! Read this, oh Literati, and you will understand. Read this, and be humbled by eloquence, as am I.
Here is Kristies entry and chance to win $500…
By Kristy Webster
I held you in my arms after washing my hands in hot water and ivory soap for sixty seconds. That was the rule. At age eight, I believed myself an expert on how to hold new things, an expert of how to live in this noisy world. I smelled the top of your head, examined your frail fingernails. I gently flexed them, alarmed at how pliable they were. I tested mine: stiff, inflexible, already. I marveled at your softness, your absolute perfection.
When I was thirteen, I was more of an expert, and your parents asked, Can you keep your eye on him please? And I did. You pouted, you stomped your foot while your parents busied themselves cleaning out their most recent rental, the third in one year. When I tried to take your hand in mine, an offering of comfort, you bit me. But I didn’t tell. I understood it was your protest, the last straw of your patience as you watched your toys sorted, divided into labeled boxes, your clothes folded and lowered into ballooning duffel bags and plastic bins. I added the bite to my crown, a gem of my growing expertise on how to be.
When I was twenty, my crown heavy with dull rocks and broken stones, I watched you, together with my two-year-old son. You were playing with your train set, a birthday gift from your grandmother. My son stomped on the train, pulled pieces from the track, broke them in two, in three, even four, after ruthlessly chewing them up. You sat on the floor, looking at the wake of destruction my angry toddler left behind. I waited for your rage, the five-year-old who stomped his feet, who showed his teeth. But you didn’t show me your teeth, you lifted your head, your glossy eyes questioning mine. I asked, Can it be fixed? You shook your head. No, you answered, But everything breaks, eventually. You said, You just have to let it go once it’s broken. Everything breaks, I repeated.
I was twenty-eight the next time we met and you were a man, towering over the shattered pieces of my crown. I was no expert on how to live. I had only taken too long to believe it. How many years has it been? I asked knowing full well already. Too many, you answered. My son still talks about you, I told you. You hugged me, pressing the back of my head towards you, pulling my face into your chest. I drowned in your scent. I thought, This is what I’ve been waiting for. This. Nothing else.
It wasn’t perfect the first time, or the second. Our first kiss flooded as November poured through a canopy of evergreens. You wiped my face with the inside of your coat, as if you’d forgotten it hadn’t stopped raining. My face wouldn’t stay dry and not only because of the rain.
You left. To find yourself, you said. To know yourself. You were just a kid who thought he was a man, you told me. You were still growing. You were only twenty when you talked about forever. You were no expert on how to be. Be angry, tell me how horrible I am for doing this to you, you begged. I rubbed the place on my left hand, the meaty part of my thumb where you’d taken a bite out of me so long ago. I told you, Everything breaks, eventually. You left me while I sat in the tub, my skin going up in flames. I wanted the scalding water to burn the flesh right off my bones, to rid me of tissue, of nerves, anything capable of drinking and retaining this pain. White bones, a ladder of broken steps to a broken heart.
I swear it’s not too late. A place must exist where broken things are made whole again, where time exists windowless, insulating this tiny kingdom. I swear it’s not too late, to cure the brokenness, to heal such subtle but profound damage. I swear it isn’t too late to find yourself inside this room, with me. It’s not too late, I say to you, when you come back to gather your things; a guitar, a presumably lost jersey, your bags of shirts stuffed inside Safeway bags. I tell you, I kept the pieces all these years, promised myself I’d fix the track, that I’d replace the joints between the train cars. I said, I know it’s a long time coming, but broken things can be fixed.
But you left. You left. You left.
Night after night without you, the ages between us fight their bloody wars. I have loved you in every way, maybe even with a new love that never existed before me and you. Tell me it’s not too late to put down our swords. Tell me it’s not too late and I will believe you. I will sink into that ruthless dream. I will wait. I will wait…
But you left.
I told you I would put this pain on paper. I told you I would bear it. This is me, my love, bearing it.