By Deanne Wilsted - Dedicated to the great students in the SU Fall Quarter Lit Class and to our great professor. Thanks for sharing your literary journey with me!
The vessel faded from my view as my icy raft took me north, into the thick mist. I wrapped my long heavy arms around my torso. Although my form was mostly immune to the cold, the anguish I felt at my creator’s passing filled me with agony. The only person who ever might have reached out to accept me as his was gone. I was now truly alone.
Mangled form exposed on the frozen sheet of ice, I allowed myself to feel what cold I could. The light from the stars reflected off the black water and the slithering waves slid themselves up onto my floe. How long I lay like that I know not. I only know that it was long enough for the cold to shrink my skin, for my seams to pull apart, like fabric stretched too tightly across a bulging belly. My blue blood seeped through the cracks where I had been put together. I watched the blood mingle with the frigid water, following it’s flow with my yellow eyes until, finally, they closed in what I knew would be my final sleep.
It was my left big toe that first felt the heat– a warmth that woke me from my coma. I dared not open my eyes. The fires of hell then, were to be the consequence of my life and I put off the final knowledge as long as possible. But I did not burn as I would expect. The temperature blanketed me until my whole body felt cocooned. I recognized the weight of fabric on me. This then could not be hell. But yet could it be heaven? A scent filled the air, that of the sweetest meadows I had wandered near Geneva. Ultimately I heard gentle voices singing near me, sweet as the songs of the De Lacey family I had loved. The sound filled my ears and compelled me to open my eyes. I searched for the source of the music, while shrinking away from certain scrutiny. Struggling to pull the blanket up, up, over my hideous face, with hands that were shockingly unrestrained, I must have alerted someone near me. From behind my head I heard a soft voice seek to reassure.
“Shhh, shhh, dear. You have had a long journey, but you are safe.”
I could not comprehend what this could mean, neither the statement nor the quiet voice presenting it. A soft, wrinkled hand touched my forehead, then moved down to gently lay on my cheek…. on my cheek. Her skin on my very skin. It shocked me; nay, more it bewildered me. My fingers tingled, forcing me to recall the only other times I had felt the sensation of skin on skin. I dreaded to think of it; the necks of my victims burned in my brain, branded there as surely as the touch I now felt would forever mark my cheek. I turned my head from the innocent fingers.
The bed where I lay slowly began to tilt, so that soon I was able to see the room around me. A face, I assume belonging to the hand, came before me and fluffed the pillow behind my head. Around me I saw figures of all different forms, a dragon with hair instead of scales, a cowboy riding an ostrich, a soldier carrying flowers rather than a gun, a spotted elephant. Colors assaulted me– cotton candy pink and waterfall blue, canes striped in red and white, and glistening silver bubbles.
“Heaven then,” I grunted, yet unable to believe this could be true.
“Not heaven, no, not yet.” The woman chuckled and the figures, perhaps picking up on her humor began a dance where their heads wagged back and forth and their legs kicked up in a row. Their voices, gentle until now became louder, and the song was sung with such energy I could not imagine them maintaining it for long.
Abruptly the exhausted figures finished and took a bow. I heard enthusiastic clapping behind me and turned to see a massive lion, bigger even than me, it is true. The crown on his head stayed in place though his mane shook with his exuberant nodding.
“Bravo, bravo,” he exclaimed to the beaming figures. The spotted elephant did a back flip, and the soldier shot his flowers up into the air. Standing on his hind legs, the lion caught one and them and handed it to me. “Welcome to the Island of Misfit Toys.”
My words are as heavy as the torn, wet blanket covering the nondescript body of the homeless guy lying on the ground. Grey and cold and lifeless, even in life.
My words are as hot as the fake orange hair covering the nuclear button ready to blow at any time. If it made a sound it would squeak.
My words are as empty as the streets once filled with protesters ready for change, but now drinking their lattes in front of their computers. Time to refresh.
My words are as explosive as the answer to the texts, “how are you?” that friends and family send without any clue that I live my life inside out. Blood pours from unprotected veins.
Your words heal and fight and love and drive and make beautiful. And I am silent.
Another box emptied, another poem found.
In a cool dark night
She bends her head down
Into the breeze.
She sings along and lets
Her mind wander . . .
Wonder about other things
Farther off - but not too
A star that burns brightly
For her, and only
When she is successful
This is not life. It is
Daily words and smiles,
Songs and birds and
Dreams are only reality
To a selfish dreamer.
Life is more difficult-
It is sharing the good . . .
And the bad.
And trusting tha the world
Can still be wonderful
Even with this dichotemy.
These four poems were written by me many years ago, and only recently discovered within the pages of a workbook - holding their secrets until my world had a place to share them.
Why did Atlas shrug?
Simply to lighten the load?
or a sign, to an uncaring world, that
soon he would choose another road?
Paths aren't by nature rough.
With potholes, and ditches, and sand.
Experience trips the most weary
travelers, at moments too tired to stand.
Simplicity is, what is-
And when jacuzzi bubbles are stripped away
Life isn't nearly as heavy
As Atlas felt that day.
Rebecca was my childhood friend
Perfectly dressed, with curls of gold.
A painted smile on her plastic face
She never let me down.
Branches reaching to the sky, sillouettes
Of a child reaching down.
Faith that a hand up can come
From the most unlikely places.
Do I discard these simple icons,
Strength from hope so pure and true?
And even hands which grasp with strength
Can't always make me whole again.
Pride and Prejudice
And tall I walk
And loud I laugh
And strong I feel
Before my fall.
And hard I am
And cold I act
And proud I feel
Though not at all.
And how they talk
And how they laugh
When once again
I act so true.
And why again
I play the fool
When all along
I had it's clue.
When once again we take a stand
Serious as it will be
And vow to love each other well
Will we now know, with hearts filled up
The best that we can be?
Will we remember other times
Of deep disparity?
Will the knowing then make sense
Of vows too young to tell,
That life gives both the good and bad-
The Heaven and the Hell.
College Girl - By Deanne Wilsted
College girl dwells for days on the metaphor
Of leaving home.
Her soul splinters, still attached- but only just.
A new phase, not like the moon, more like
A plant growing: seed, roots, stalk, sunshine, bloom, death.
Or, time- zero sum- home or not home, alone or not alone,
The path chosen with no return.
Until there is laundry to be done.
(Photo courtesy of http://www.solardecathlon.gov/team_middlebury.html)
(This story was written by Deanne Sprinkle Wilsted in college - Santa Clara University, 1987)
“Give me your hand or you’ll fall.” The chilly water rushed over her pink toenails and then receded as she
extended her arm to Michael. Standing amid the tidepool her lips perked upward into a relaxed smile. The red warmth of her Stanford sweatshirt stood in contrast against the fog and dampness. The cuffed guess jeans were spattered with the whiteness of the saltwater and were wet up to her knees. In the hand not extended she held a couple of shells and a piece of seaweed which she later planned on dropping down Michael’s sweater. It simply seemed to her the thing to do.
She hesitated, unsure of pulling her hand back, since Michael had not yet reached for it. She wished she knew what went on behind those dark brown eyes. In his blue sweater he looked so… easygoing. She thought he was the picture of relaxed self-confidence and the thought made her cringe. Michael had worn jeans also, a true rarity in his wardrobe, which he now had rolled up to his knees. He didn’t seem to mind the water lapping around his polished topsiders, on the contrary. She could almost see his toes dancing around inside the shoes.
She remembered that she needed a new pair of white shoes. Last time she had visited Michael’s room he had told her that her shoes stunk after she had slid them off of her feet. The thought that they stunk now barely crossed her
mind since she stood with barefeet emersed in four inches of water. They stunk. She lifted her face which had inadvertently wandered to her feet and caught his half smile.
The wind made her eyes water and she realized suddenly that she still had her hand extended across the
narrow channel of water dividing herself from Michael. To hide her panic she dropped down to look at the sea life. Damn, she thought. Damn. How would she be able to explain the rears running down her cheeks? The combination of wind, saltwater, and her contacts had led to this awkward condition, but Michael would believe it all had something to do with him. Paranoia. Once Michael had said that she was paranoid. And overreactive she thought to
The anemone closed up tightly when she extended her finger into it tennacles. It wanted to grasp her
finger but she withdrew it quickly jerking her hand out of the water in the process. In slow motion she watched the drops of seawater land on Michael’s face. He had also bent down for a closer look at the sea creatures, seeing
things from a different perspective. Inside, she admonished her own clumsiness. Their faces were inches apart. Michael’s eyes were cloudy, unreadable, although she knew her own told the whole story. They told of her hopes and fears and experiences, and her lies and dreams. She knew it was all there if he was looking but she wondered whether he even cared enough to really see. Lately she had begun to listen to her friends about Michael; egocentric, uncaring, a womanizer. The characteristics were all undoubtedly true but she lacked courage; courage and strength.
Pearlets of water dripped off of his Rolex and she wondered how he could always be so unconcerned. What would it take to break his calm. Oh well, did she really care? Did she care? The seconds hand on Michael’s watch was moving in circles slower than her mind.
“Give me your hand or you’ll fall.” He wondered if the words came from him or from her. But no, the slender fingers on the hand extended to him were hers. They looked so inviting. His own hands were cold, thrust into his pockets like snails in their shells. The fog made him feel sticky and he wondered why he hadn’t had the sense to take his shoes off like Anna. Her ankles looked so slender and the waves that rushed over her feet distorted them. She must be cold, he thought, but she really didn’t look it.
His hands played with the certs candies in his pockets as he casually studied Anna. The mist had made her strawberry hair even more curly than usual and he liked the rare messy look, her lips reflected her intentness as she gazed down, and although he seldom saw Anna’s freckles... today they seemed to fit in perfectly with the picture she created. Even to go to the beach she had worn some makeup but he had to stop to really notice it.
He remembered seeing Anna without makeup and inwardly kicked himself for having been such a callous fool
that morning, commenting on how different she looked without any makeup. He often said things to Anna that he wished he could take back later, or at least explain. That morning had been a perfect example. They had awoken and he had been struck by a real quality of… naturalness. Naturalness at being there, with her, beautiful without makeup. She hadn’t understood. That same feeling overcame him now as he stared at the hand in front of him and heard the rhythmic lapping of the water.
Her eyes. He only wished he could really see how she felt through her blue eyes. Then he wouldn’t be so scared. Then he probably wouldn’t say all of those stupid things. Sometimes he felt like she was the tide itself, waxing and
waning, never really constant or predictable. One minute he would swear he could see right to her heart, the next he’d realize how distant he really was from her. He looked at her face now and saw tears fall gracefully over her cheeks. A perfect example. He realized he had not taken her hand and he questioned whether it was this that had made her cry or if it was simply the mist and salt filled breeze that caused her tears. He knew if he had courage he would reach out and wipe them dry, but he didn’t, and was relieved when she lowered herself to stare into the tidepool below.
He understood how the orange anemone felt when Anna withdrew her pinkie from its tennacles. That was exactly what he was afraid of. He was startled by the cold water which hit his face but it brought him momentarily out of his reverie. He smiled at Anna’s distraught face and knew that for once he was seeing an honest emotion. Anna stared intently at his watch and he wondered if she was bored and wanted to get home. What a few minutes earlier had seemed natural now felt tenuous and he decided it was time to leave.
Standing up he moved to step across the channel of water, but the rubber of his topsider slipped off of a piece of seaweed and he found himself grasping for Anna as he fell into the icey Pacific. A splash next to him told him that Anna too was in the cold pool of water.
Nervous laughter erupted from the two bodies as they held hands, looking into each others eyes, never questioning, simply shaking the water and disturbing the starfish, sails and anemone.
This is a library of my shared work. Some is from childhood, some from classes I have taken, and some from recent work.
Did you know I have written a bunch of FREE short stories for the Genre-istas? Check them out here.