Poem: The Death of a Thousand Cuts

The Death of a Thousand Cuts

By Michelle Garren Flye

She’s whole, pure, beautiful

When she steps out into the world,

And the first cut is kind of pitiful—

She barely notes the blood pearl.

The second comes out of nowhere—

Perhaps from the company she keeps?

She bandages it up with great care,

But no one hears when she weeps.

Third, fourth and fifth go deeper—

Needing more than a few stitches.

She covers them with a sweater

And cries until her breath hitches.

By the twentieth, she’s beyond care.

The blood splotches the floor in drips.

She armors herself to prepare

For the constant onslaught of whips.

She’ll go on and on and on

Into a world full of attacks.

She feels like an automaton,

Just surviving all the whacks.

A hundred, two hundred, more

And the armor barely dulls

The sting of each strike before

Silence falls in the rarest of lulls.

She wonders what each blow takes.

Is it blood or faith that she bleeds?

God, religion, nation—each forsakes

And their call she no longer heeds.

It’s cruel what life does to you—

How it parades and poses and struts.

In the end it’ll take you, it’s true,

By the death of a thousand cuts.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem 26 (National Poetry Month): Ditch Flower

Ditch Flower

By Michelle Garren Flye

I’ll take your picture now

For tomorrow is uncertain;

We cannot tell when or how

The future pulls the curtain.

It’s pretty sure you’ll go

Sooner than later, my flower,

For the farmer is going to mow

Ere the clouds turn to shower.

Let me capture your grace

Behind my lens to store—

A ditch is not a safe place;

Soon you’ll be here no more.

Here today, gone tomorrow. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem 24 (National Poetry Month): When We Return to “Normal”

Everything feels wrong now, and it seems that everyone is trying to quantify it and box it up and make it what they’ve always known. “Don’t judge people if you see them not wearing a mask or taking their kids out or trying to go back to work—you don’t know what they’re going through,” say some. This is true. But it does not escape my sense of fairness that some of these people are the same ones who are quick to judge those who take their families and flee from death and poverty in other countries. Don’t judge them, either. You don’t know what they’ve gone through.

We all want to go back to “normal”, but I don’t think we’re ever going to get back there from here. We’ll go back to some semblance of day-to-day life, but I believe what scifi writers have been warning us about—that some event would come along eventually that would change us forever—has finally happened. Where we go from here is really up to us. We can remain politically divided with half of us in denial about our doom and the other half constantly lecturing about it—or we can unite and fight for survival. I pray we opt to find the best in all of us when we declare victory over this virus…and return to “normal”.

When We Return to “Normal:

By Michelle Garren Flye

“I like that lady’s mask, Mommy.”

The little boy doesn’t wear a mask.

His face bare, he points at me.

Why is he here, I’d love to ask?

But life now is far from easy;

You can’t judge or take to task

Those whose differences you see.

Maybe we will remember this lesson

When we can declare our battle won.

When the world returns to “normal”

And we look each other in the face again

We may remember we are all mortal

And not judge each other by colors of skin.

Maybe we will recall we’re all one world

And where we come from is not our sin.

Maybe this can be done because it’s natural

When we survive a crisis with our fellow man.

Yes, let’s look at each other and see only “us”

When we stand on the battlefield victorious.

Like a flower conquering concrete, we will survive. It’s where we go from there that matters. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem 18 (National Poetry Month): Walking Outside on a Windy Day

Walking Outside on a Windy Day

By Michelle Garren Flye

I walk outside to the wind waiting for rain

a fluttering clash quickly dissipates

so when I turn my head

I see only a single feather

twirling down

the only evidence that remains

of the maelstrom

before the storm came.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem 17 (National Poetry Month): COVID-19

I considered titling this poem “Lasting Effects”, but I prefer the blatancy of this title instead.

COVID-19

By Michelle Garren Flye

Don’t do that, it will make you sick.

Don’t go out—don’t even try.

The virus is out there, it’s too quick,

You can’t outrun it, you can’t defy.

But what if it never ends?

What if we’re stuck this way?

There may be no amends

If the virus is here to stay.

Fear has found a place of assembly,

Even in the hearts of the brave.

Soldiers cannot fight this enemy,

And maybe there is nothing to save.

Maybe this is what we’ve earned

Through years of war and strife—

When we’ve never really learned

What’s important in life.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem 13 (National Poetry Month): In the Middle of the Storm

In the Middle of the Storm

By Michelle Garren Flye

In the middle of the storm

There’s no time for wondering

If what we are doing is right

(That’s what preparation is for)

The noise and distraction

Leave no room for discussion

About what we’re supposed to do

(So we just do and hope)

It’s only after that we find out

It’s only when we stand on the edge

And survey what’s left that we know

(If we’re lucky enough anyway)

History watches every decision

Written by victors (or victorias)

A reflection of what we did

In the middle of the storm

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem 11 (National Poetry Month): Leakage

Another attempt at rhyming poetry. Some are better than others

Leakage

By Michelle Garren Flye

The pool in the forest looks endless and deep.

But I know a secret that I will always keep.

The stream that away from the pool leads

Now has all the water a little stream needs.

But look closer, look harder, and you will find

That time to the stream will not be kind.

Upstream a dam has been built to cut off

The flow to the pool and the stream’s runoff.

Does the pool know it is leaking away?

Will it attempt to make the water stay?

Or just like us, it may avoid the strife

And allow the leakage to continue for life.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem 3 (National Poetry Month): Zoom…Zoom…Zoom

It’s my oldest boy’s birthday, so I’m taking a break from the depressing stuff and celebrating him. Happy birthday to my son.

Zoom…Zoom…Zoom

By Mom

Time flies when you’re having fun, or so they say,

But I can remember each individual day.

From the time you were born,

The last day diapers were worn,

From taking your first step,

To each and every time you wept.

The joy of you has kept us wondering what’s next

From the moment you drew first breath.

It’s not always easy, in fact life can be hard.

But you’re up to it, Josh, you’ll do your part.

Hang in there, have faith, and I know you’ll see

Just how much happiness a good life can be.

Poem: Peace and Rubble (is this how we go?)

Humans, as a whole, have a difficult time seeing clearly beyond their own noses. I’m guilty of it, too. Some have a gift of empathy where they not only see clearly what is happening to others beyond their own experience, they feel it, too. These poor creatures are definitely the exceptions.

Look at what’s going on now. Here in southeastern North Carolina, we’re dealing with the restrictions that COVID-19 has placed on our entire nation, we’re watching the news and seeing the numbers tick steadily up—but the people around us don’t appear to be sick. Maybe some of them are, but their cases must be extremely mild. We know that there are more cases out there and we could be next. We know it, but we don’t, for the most part, actually feel it.

And so we go on about our lives. We’ve taken up new hobbies, returned to old ones. The kids go to “online” school every day. Some of us are chafing a little at the restrictions. My kids can’t see their friends. My oldest is missing the second half of his sophomore year at college. But over it all, right now (and it may be short-lived), I have a feeling of profound peace. I’m not rushing anymore. I’m not feeling guilty for devoting so much time to the theater work I love instead of making dinner for my family. I have time to fold laundry and wash dishes. I’m enjoying this unanticipated vacation.

And I know it shows a lack of empathy that I can feel peaceful right now. Maybe this is the end of everything, maybe it’s the ruination of our country, maybe it’s the apocalypse. Anyway…

Peace and Rubble (is this how we go?)

By Michelle Garren Flye

If this is the way we go, I think it’s the way I choose:

Family all around, safe in our home, with love as real

As the things I care about—the only things I have to lose;

Maybe that’s wrong to say but it’s the way I feel.

It’s an odd war we’re fighting, of that there is no doubt.

The enemy is hidden, you can’t even see the rubble.

There’s nothing to show on the nightly news, no bout

Of bombing or flattened buildings—maybe that’s the trouble.

Instead of fighting, we’re asked to sit still and quiet

Don’t go out, stay home with your loved ones, they say.

There’s a special joy in that if you’ll only find it,

A life you’ve not given yourself time to live—until today.

Who says life finds a way? This flower.

What lesson can we learn from this little flower? Everything important. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

I took this picture this morning. Dogwoods are blooming in North Carolina. I’ve been photographing them ever since they started peeking out a week or so ago. But this particular bloom intrigued me. Why?

Because it’s blooming on a broken branch.

The branch was half severed during a storm in the late summer/early fall. It never died, though. The leaves stayed green until they reddened to brown in the fall. I’ve been watching this branch since then, waiting for spring and wondering if it would bloom like the rest of the tree.

It is. Blooming. A little stunted, a little slower, but blooming nonetheless. Partially severed from the rest of the tree, this little blossom is still struggling for survival. It has a message of beauty and purpose to spread to us. No doubt this flower would prefer to still be on a limb that is fully attached to the tree it comes from, but it’s taking what’s been given and going with it.

It occurred to me that this flower is much like us right now. Do we wish we weren’t stuck in isolation? Would we prefer to be able to go to dinner and movies and parties like normal? (Okay, the parties thing is not me, but I understand I’m less social than the normal human being.) It would definitely be nice to go out shopping without wondering if this is the time we pick up the COVID-19 virus and bring it home to our families.

Yeah, we’re all blooming on our own broken branches right now. But we’re blooming, nonetheless. We’re helping each other and spending time with family members that maybe had been a little neglected, tending to gardens and cleaning our homes. Our children are still learning from teachers who are overcoming what would once have been insurmountable obstacles to teaching.

Life is going on. To quote Jeff Goldblum (and either Michael Crichton or Steven Spielberg?), “Life finds a way.” We are alive. We are finding a way to live.