Thursday, October 20, 2016

Lif Finds Kip on Pangum

I crept up to Kip's tent and rapped on the wall to see if he was awake. No response. With much hesitance, I moved to the entrance of his tent and pulled back a flap. He was sleeping deeply, his long, deep breaths filling the air with moisture. I carefully inched toward him, but in the darkness of night and untidiness of his floor, I struggled to find my footing. I tripped and caught myself, loudly. Looking up, I saw him half sit up; his face was startled and his eyes suddenly went wide, but remained beneath their translucent lids. He was still asleep.

"Hey, you're awa-"

"You're not .. go away." He stammered, still dreaming. The dark made it so we couldn't see each other so I had to use something else to wake him. I reached in my bag for a torch rock, and had almost pulled it out when he shouted again, "get out!". I caught a glimpse of his wide eyes in the light from the open flap as he jumped out of his bed and lunged at me. I tried to dodge but the tent was too narrow and he knocked me back outside. I felt a strong grasp at my left ankle, and I struggled to free myself, but he only clutched harder. He was clearly awake now and not at all himself.

"Kip, it's me," I pleaded

"You can't fool me with her voice. Who are you?!"

I reached for my torch rock again, and this time my fingers clutched it, just in time for him to pin my wrist and back.

"Who are you?" He demanded. I was speechless, my face against the soil and my arm lodged against his.

"Answer me!"

Trembling, I spoke what I could between breaths.

"It's. Me...Lif"

He paused quietly but held his grip. I felt him take my other hand and he pulled my wrists together, binding them with the same one-handed grip. He used the other to check me for weapons and found my dagger. It clung to my hip as a child as he fumbled with the scabbard until it was finally wrested from its sheath with a quiet cry of metallic glass. A shot of adrenaline filled my abdomen, making me struggle my hardest. He hesitated, and then quickly moved his arm around my torso with the dagger to my neck and his other hand still holding mine behind my back.

He said "get up" in his gravest voice and I carefully moved with the knife. Once we had stood, he rotated me to the left and we proceeded to walk silently in-step toward an outcropping with brighter light. We stopped in the center and he removed the blade from my neck.

"Who sent you?" He continued his interrogation.

"I came here on my own."

"Someone is paying you"

"What? No one is-," I blurted out but broke down.

With a big push, he released me and pushed me to a safe distance away. I stumbled but didn't dare move. The soft lowlight of the artificial night showered the tree branches and leaves with pale blue. I suddenly felt infinitesimal and numb: a speck about to vanish in a place so far from home.

"Turn around," he commanded me. I took a moment to compose myself and then did as he commanded.

"Kip. I came here on my own."


He recognized me but still had to check he wasn't hallucinating in the lowlight. He approached me with dagger in hand while rummaging in his pocket for a torch rock. He held the rock up to illuminate me and I saw his face turn from apprehension to relief to sadness. He dropped the dagger and embraced me as I released my body into his arms.

"Lif... I'm so sorry."

All I could let out was a short moan-sigh but I felt that was enough.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Lif and Mel Lament

Melna came home, making her usual sounds of habit. The opening doors and untying of boots I had grown fond of over the years did not help me today when Kip's chair sat empty. I mustered a "welcome home" and got up to prepare our last meal of the day. She walked into the room and returned my greeting without a look, instead grabbing a cup of water and moving to the grand room window to observe the waking torches of faraway homes. I continued washing the grains and chopping the roots I had picked that morning.

She chimed in after a moment, "He really left then?"
"This morning... Yes."
She paused, still staring at the torches and sipping.
"So stupid," she muttered.

She turned and with a slow and heavy pace, she approached the kitchen. She set her cup down stared at my work.
"How are you?" She asked me in her concerned voice.
It was an unexpected question. I stopped and took a few seconds to think of something to say, but she saved me before I could answer.
"You don't have to answer that right now, I just–"
"No, it's okay. The truth is... I just haven't thought about it too much. I've been too focused to think about it."
"Too focused? You're never like that, Lif."
I smiled a little bit inside, but I know Mel sensed it.
"Lif, I'm nervous too."
She stopped my chopping with a touch on my shoulder and took my hand.
"You and I have to keep going. So that when Kip comes home he–"
"If he comes home", I reminded her.

I went back to chopping and she turned and went back to the window with her cup. I knew she was thinking the same thing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Capture of Lif

I could hear footsteps approaching in the distance, but I couldn't bring myself to leave his side. Were it me, my present self, I still wouldn't have left. I felt his stuttered, unconscious breaths on the tips of my right ear in between the beats of his heart echoing in my fingers and prayed that they didn't stop.

The footsteps came nearer, and I clutched his shoulders tighter, closing my eyes to hear him better.

The footsteps stopped, and a man yelled out to me with an commanding tone, but Kip's breaths were louder in my ear than anything I could have heard in that moment. The man called once more, some sentence with words I didn't understand. There was a brief pause while he waited to see if I would move, but I didn't. The silence was cut by the sound of a gun rising, and more words, louder words.

I realized then that I couldn't protect Kip if I died here, so I opened my eyes and stared at the stranger with the gun pointed at me. He had rough skin, and a large leather hat covering his head and ears. His eyes were not afraid, not angry. Instead they were resolutely absent, the eyes of a man who had given up being happy long ago. He had a partner; too young to be a spouse, too old for a daughter. She had a similar hat, and a long, thin spear that was taller than she was. I knew my words would only do harm, so I looked into her eyes, and spoke in that silent language that animals and children use.

  She turned to the man, and beckoned, "Apo..."
  He ignored her, and kept his eyes fixed on me. She approached me, remaining suspicious. With just a little bit of effort, she grasped my arm fully, and pulled hard, but I struggled, intent on staying with Kip. She pulled back, this time much harder, and hurled me off of him. I let out a cry of longing and fear, and she quickly gathered my arms together behind me, and lifted me up to stand. She yelled a command to the other man, and suddenly we were walking back where they came from. I turned to look back at Kip, and she pulled my shoulder to keep looking ahead. My arms and legs, my inner fight had turned off. My eyes were burned with salt, and my skin red with the cold. I could still feel the heat from Kip's breaths on my right ear, and for a second almost believed I could hear them too.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

I was born once, and with the birds. Naked in the spring, black eyed and eager for mother.

When I flew, it was upward, toward that endless unreachable blue ceiling. The sun, laughing at me from his distant chariot.

And when the stars arrived, they burned in me where the innumerable goals burn. Reflecting on my insides to make me as wide as the universe.

As a bird, all I know is to fly.

And I will never be done flying.

Monday, February 15, 2016


Fire, that immortal blacksmith,
forever forging its shimmering blades.
They rise from the darkness, cutting and separating,
destroying an impurified husk
to leave just what will be essential.

At first it turns black.
Black like the soil beneath our feet
where everything we know came from.
Black like the hidden corners of my mouth
where the words i meant to say never moved.

But this too burns and turns to ashen white
Its structure surrendered,
a mound of remnants, homogenous and unpatterned,
a gentle chaos with no identity,
dead and stirring with the wind

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

To Kip, undeterred

It's bitter cold out here before the sunrise.
The power lines are humming with the lake a distant 40 yards off,
and we're here, sitting in your car at 5am,
wishing the world would stop spinning.

"it's getting cold," you say, and I grasp your hand. 
The diesel smell has dissipated, but I still smell your hair in this stillness.
"Do you know the reason I call us by our celestial names?" I ask.

Years ago, you told me a story about how vast and distant everything is in space
How things move with a great clock marking the time.
And as it ticks, we all dance to its beat.

You and I were always off time, eclipsing and countering each other.
We never stopped orbiting, and we still inch closer.

Someday we will have to pick:
explode from a slingshot or conjoin into one.

Hold tight to my gravity, and i'll hold to yours. 
And let's see where we land.

Friday, January 29, 2016

To Lin, after

I found your necklace the other day. It was napping on the bathroom sink with the toothbrush and the comb. It hadn't caught my glance in the night, but when the sunrise bent its beams toward the gemstone's faces, I watched it unfold it's splendor like a Phoenix from ash.

it isn't often that I get a reminder of those moments only you and I know of. After all this time, I still keep you hidden in places I forget. Just today, I was cleaning the bookshelf and I found letters you sent while you were in Cambodia. There was even one where you packed a little clipping of a rice plant in a bubble mailer so I could feel and smell what it was like. That was a special kind of love I hadn't known before, and the electricity of it all still puzzles me.

You haven't heard from me because I am changing, and in the midst of changing I've forgotten who I am and what is important. It wasn't fair of me to give us an expiration date. I drew the line and told you to prepare yourself for what was inevitable. I wasn't sure how serious I was until you insisted that the line exists. And since that point I've yet to fulfill my promise of letting you in.

I cannot divulge everything at once. Some things take months to explain and at this rate I'm sure it will take even longer. I admit that being so miserly with your patience is not fair to you, but please trust my saying that when the time is right, you will understand why I am not so quick to say what it is that troubles me.