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Posts Tagged ‘Poems’

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From afar a glorious thing,

Like a city at midnight beckoning;

Your cage disguised as your wings,

Gold and diamonds and pretty rings;

Tinted windows blocking the light,

Tumble down seventeen stories high;

Never see sun, never see sky,

Sickeningly jeweled hand on your thigh;

Black suits in a suffocating sea,

Can’t bite the gold between your teeth;

A façade like an opaque sheath,

You never wonder what’s beneath.

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Dark heavens pierced by a bright skyline,

A thousand twinkling lights,

A million intertwining lives—

It’s all electric, you can feel it.

And he walks past the neon signs,

Dizzyingly slow traffic lines,

Midnight, but everything’s alive—

It’s all hectic, he can feel it.

In a cab, she wonders why

This is only the first time

She’s searched here for the limelight—

It’s all tangible, she can feel it.

For moments they both close their eyes;

The feelings and sounds all seem to collide,

The constant conversation, the chill of the night—

It’s all-encompassing—can you feel it?

 

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He is sun all over—

It streaks his hair and

It browns his skin, almost as dark as

His eyes, which are warmer than it

As it beats down upon your bare back.

 

He is wrong all over—

Righter than the last but

Wronger than the next,

And you can tell because it’s written on his smirk,

And it’s there, between his crystalline summer words.

 

Summer.

 

He’s summer all over—

Shimmering and seaside,

Smelling like salt amongst other things,

And a wave of desire crashes down, begging him to stay,

But he will fade with every falling leaf.

 

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Just like putting on your favorite pair of shoes,

You have to undo the laces you left tied

Last time you wore them.

So often you wore them—

They’re worn-out and broken-in,

And your toes sigh as they slip into them

With a familiarity so comforting

That you wonder why you didn’t wear these

Shoes all year.

They’re battered and old,

But they’re more pleasing to your eyes

Than they were when you first bought them

And than that other pair of shoes you wore

All year—

The ones that hurt your feet

Because they were smaller than your size.

But these shoes—

Your favorite shoes—

Fit like gloves in the wintertime,

And they won’t hold you back from

Walking northward all those miles.

So you tie them up

Just like you did

The last time you wore them,

But this time

You use a double knot

So they won’t ever leave your feet.

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          I was so immersed in my surroundings that I did not even notice the old man had left until it was too late. It struck me that I was utterly alone in a strange world that I had no idea how to get around. The vastness of the forest overwhelmed me—I had no other option than to venture into the darkness between the trees, for to my left and to my right stretched only an infinite lawn of pristinely emerald grass. If I was not as anxious as to where I would go and what I would find there, I would have lain down amongst the flowers, savoring the sweet smell of their nectar. I would have gazed up at the clear blue sky, squinting my eyes at the abnormally large sun. I would have become mesmerized at the brilliance of the butterflies’ wings, watching the creatures as they darted through the air.

            But I did none of those things.

            The woodland was not as foreboding once I entered it. Shafts of light passed through the canopies of the trees and illuminated my surroundings with a soft, almost magical glow. Near the roots of trees grew circles of little toadstools—cheerful red speckled with white. Here too there were butterflies, lined up perfectly along the branches of the trees and glancing down at me with what—oddly enough—seemed to be curiosity. I could not help but feel like a stranger invading their territory.

            Although I was only about a foot tall, the world around me seemed proportional to my height. The undergrowth was easy to maneuver, and the roots that snaked over the ground did not hinder me at all. The largest trees were enormous, but I figured that they would still look that way if I was my normal stature. I wondered if I would reach a point in the forest where everything increased in size. I hoped not, for I could not think of any way to become bigger.

            After a few minutes of aimless wandering, I began to see something strange in the distance: rings of smoke. They floated lazily in the air—perfect O’s drifting through the branches and carrying with them an odd smell that I could not identify. I craned my head, trying to see from where the smoke was originating. A short distance away and to my left, I noticed a tall cluster of fronds, over which the rings drifted. I hurried toward it and pulled the leaves aside, revealing a grassy clearing with a giant yellow mushroom at its center.

            I coughed; the odor of the smoke was heaviest here, and I immediately saw why.

            Sitting prominently on the mushroom was a dark-skinned man of about my height—my current height, that is. He was surrounded by such a hazy cloud of smoke that I wondered how he could breathe, yet he inhaled the tainted air as zealously as if it were permeated by the sweet smell of roses. The azure robes the he was dressed in did nothing to conceal the fact that he was extremely overweight, for although the fabric was voluminous, his figure somehow managed to swell inside the abundance of silk. In his hand he lazily held the mouthpiece of a hookah, its hose so long that the body of the instrument was nowhere in sight.

            At first, he did not even notice my presence. He brought the pipe to his lips and took a deep breath before slowly releasing the smoke into the air. I cleared my throat, and only after a few moments did he fix his beady, contemptuous eyes on me.

            “Who… are… you?” he said languorously between puffs. His voice was the kind that could put someone to sleep—although perhaps such a slumber would result in nightmares.

            The longer I looked at him, the fatter he seemed to become. His nose was large and bulbous, and his face was the shape of a pear—bulging outwards at his cheeks and widely rounded at his chin. There were layers to his stomach, and they piled up on each other in a manner that caused them to resemble sections of an insect’s abdomen. On his head was a turban as bulky as he was—adorned with a single blue feather, which curved back elegantly.

            “Whoareyou?” he repeated, this time with impatience.

            I blinked myself out of my trance and quickly replied, “Sorry. My name’s Alice.”

            “Alice who?”

            “Alice Little.”

            “Yes, yes,” he snapped. “But Alice Little who?”

            I furrowed my eyebrows. “I don’t get what you mean.”

            He sighed out a billow of smoke and gave me a derisive look. “I didn’t ask for your name.”

            “But it was only polite of me to give it to you,” I retorted. “If you had any manners, you would tell me your name.”

            He gestured the thought away with a wave of the hookah. “No matter. First question.”

            Our conversation had gone full circle. I crossed my arms and replied, “Well, I guess you’re out of luck. I’ve been through so much today that I don’t even know who I am anymore.”

            “Explain yourself,” he said.

            “For one, this isn’t my… preferred size.”

            His face darkened. “I think it is a perfectly acceptable size, mind you.”

            “Oh, of course,” I said rapidly—only now did I remember that the man was the same height as I. “It’s just that I’m not used to being this small. See, when I woke up this morning… everything was different.”

            “Explain,” he demanded again.

            I sat down on the grass, for it was awfully tiring to stand while trying to keep my temper. “I’m not from here,” I said. “That’s the best I can explain it. I don’t know how I got here or where exactly here is or why I followed that old man—”

            “Old man?” he interrupted.

            “Yes,” I said with all the patience I could muster. “The one with the glasses and the pocket watch.”

            He took a lungful of the odd-smelling smoke and nodded to himself as if he knew who I was talking about.

            “Aren’t you going to tell me his name?” I asked.

            “No.”

            I huffed and rose to my feet. “What are you even smoking?”

            He shrugged his hefty shoulders, causing his layers of fat to ripple like waves.

            I shook my head in disgust and made to leave the clearing. Before I took two steps, however, he called out—

            “Wait!”

            I glanced back at him over my shoulder, wondering what it was now.

            “I must tell you something. A piece of advice.”

            This caught my interest. I turned to face him.

            “Beware of the Queen,” he said gravely. His words—paired with his sleepy voice—were troubling.

            I remembered how the old man I had followed had mentioned a Queen. I did not dare ask this man who she was, however, for his identity philosophy was too absurd for me to handle. I could only wonder why the ruler of this land was so dangerous.

            “Is that all?” I said.

            “No.”

            He was silent for quite a while, smoking his hookah so languidly that I wouldn’t have been surprised if he forgot I was even there. Minutes passed, and still he said nothing; I was losing my composure with every ticking second. As soon as I decided I was about to try to leave again, however, he took the hookah out of his mouth.

            “If you go that a-way,” he responded at last, pointing to the trees behind him, “your size will be most inconvenient.”

            “Well, then I’ll go another way,” I said.

            His eyes widened as if he were outraged. “Oh, but you must go that way!”

            I shook my head in disbelief. If all people here were like this man, I would soon lose my head. “Then what in the world should I do?” I asked.

            With a loud thump, he slipped off the mushroom, his fat jiggling once he reached the ground. He blew out a ring of smoke and said, “One side makes you smaller, and the other side makes you larger.”

            “Wait, sides of what?”

            He had begun to walk toward the woods at such a slow pace that it resembled a crawl. The hose of the hookah followed him like a snake, and I wondered if perhaps the mechanism had no base at all—just a never-ending pipe that somehow carried smoke to his lips. Without turning back to look at me, he replied loudly, “Of the mushroom.”

            And so he was gone, leaving me alone in the clearing. I gazed at the mushroom thoughtfully, wondering which side was which. Figuring there was only one way to find out, I broke off a chunk from each edge and weighed them both in my hands. There was no visible difference between the two portions of the mushroom. I nibbled at the piece in my left hand and instantly felt myself growing. Something was wrong, however; my body was stretching far too quickly. In panic, I chewed down a mouthful of the second piece, causing my size to diminish significantly. I was larger than I had been a few minutes ago, but I was still too small. Thus I alternated bites between the left piece and the right piece until my height became one that felt quite normal.

            Now I was taller than the mushroom, which wasn’t even remotely as gigantic as it had been before. When I looked down on it, I noticed a neatly folded handkerchief made out of the same blue silk as the man’s robes. On the corner, a name was embroidered in silver stitching: Cahta.

            “What an odd name,” I said. “Well, I suppose everything here is odd.”

            I thought about taking the handkerchief with me, but then it occurred to me that the man—Cahta—might come back looking for it. I left it untouched, for I felt as though I had already given Cahta enough trouble by disturbing his peace. With my head decidedly clearer because of my typical size, I entered the woods and strode toward the direction in which everything became bigger, hoping that perhaps I would meet someone who wasn’t so bizarre.

 

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I was falling.

My descent was so slow that if felt like I was merely floating on a down gust of air. The hole seemed to be never-ending—a well of gigantic proportions. At first, I couldn’t see anything in the darkness, but after a few minutes of weightlessness, my surroundings became lit by what I was startled to recognize as lamps. Along with various knickknacks and antique objects, they were nestled between bookcases lining the circular wall of the chasm. It appeared as though someone paid very close attention to the decoration of the hole; of course, the ambiance one feels when one is falling through the earth is of the highest importance.

“This makes no sense,” I said, my voice creating an echo.

I extended my arm out to try and grab a book from one of the shelves, but I could not reach any of them. My eyes scanned through the titles: A History of Wonderland, The Art of Painting Roses, A Study on the Architecture of the Hearts Castle. Each volume seemed odder than the next, some having been written on places and people I’ve never heard of and others dealing with absurd concepts like shrinking and the eternal stopping of time. It was ironic to me that when I had been with my sister just a short time ago, I had scoffed at the thought of reading and now I was dying to get a glimpse at the pages held together by these intriguingly labeled spines.

“What’s the point of having all these books when you can’t read them?” I complained to no one other than myself.

I wondered how much longer it would take for me to finally hit the ground. The fright that had seized me once I had jumped in was long gone, and now it was being replaced by an agonizing boredom. I let my mind wander; I contemplated on where this hole led to and what would happen to me. I wondered who the old man was and why he was so nervous about being late. I hoped everything would be okay at home and Alexandra wouldn’t panic once she realized I was gone. For a second, I wished she was here with me—“She would go crazy with all these books”—but then I modified my wish and applied it to my cat, Diane, instead. She was a much more peaceful and much less judgmental creature.

Suddenly, I felt myself being forced into a sitting position, and I realized that I had fallen onto a chair that had appeared from under me. It was a rocking chair, which made things quite disconcerting, for when I leaned back, the chair did so as well, and I knew that if I went too far, I could go tumbling head-first through midair. I took a peek down below; I could now see a tiled floor and an old rug patterned with flowers. My chair sank to the ground at a turtle’s pace and landed as lightly as a feather.

I was in a circular room, facing a brick fireplace with a row of small silhouette portraits arranged on the mantle. They appeared to all be of the same woman, with a delicate profile and a slightly upturned nose. From her likenesses, she seemed to be beautiful and confident; her head was held regally high, and her chin jutted out boldly. Between the portraits was a large clock—though it wasn’t a normal clock by any means. When I took a closer look at it, I discovered that it ran counter-clockwise, the seconds being counted backwards and the minutes ticking by in reverse.

“This place just keeps getting weirder and weirder,” I said.

I rose from the rocking chair and noticed a large wooden door near the exit of the room. The door was locked, and there was no keyhole. I ventured into the narrow hallway that led out of the room and saw more doors like this one, all neatly arranged in a line on both walls. “How strange,” I said. “I bet each of these doors opens to someplace incredible, yet I’ll never know where.”

Scurrying ahead of me was the old man, his feet pattering against the floor so frantically that I knew he had not noticed I was behind him. He turned a corner, and I followed suit a few moments later. I found myself to be in a small room furnished only with a round, glass table and a ceiling lamp. The old man was out of sight—though how he had managed to disappear baffled me.

On the table was a tiny glass bottle with a note attached. Drink me. I held the vial against the light so that I could inspect the liquid inside. It was a clear, colorless substance—“Like water,” I muttered. “Or vodka.”

Next to the bottle was a heavy-looking gold key. I looked around the room, wondering what it opened. My eyes fell upon a door that I had not noticed before; this door, unlike the others I had seen until now, had a keyhole. The key on the table, however, was not the same shape as the keyhole, and in any case, it was much too large to open the door, which was so little that I would not even be able to crawl through it. Nevertheless, I picked up the key and put it in my pocket, for, as I determined, “It must lead to somewhere.”

The small door was the only exit in sight. I wondered if I would be trapped here forever—here in this odd, sparsely decorated room. My gaze seemed to gravitate towards the bottle, and the words “Drink me”, written in scrawling print, flashed like lights in my mind.

“Maybe it can get me out,” I said. “But how?”

I took up the bottle once again, considering the mysterious liquid inside. “Oh, but what if it is poison? Then I really would be stuck here for eternity—I would die and no one would find me. Except the old man, perhaps.”

I undid the stopper and sniffed the contents of the bottle. There was no smell that I could perceive. Deciding that poison must have its own distinctive scent, I raised the vial to my lips and drank the liquid in one gulp. It tasted wonderful—like dessert and a fine dinner all in one.

Suddenly, I felt a tingling sensation in my throat. It spread as quickly as a wildfire to all other parts of my body, and for a second I feared that I had drunk poison all along. Before I could scold myself for my foolishness, however, I underwent the strangest experience in my life.

I was shrinking.

It was as though my entire body was becoming compact—like a foldable umbrella becoming closed or a telescope shutting itself up. Once it stopped, I estimated I was about a foot tall. From my new height, my surroundings were gigantic; the glass table looked as tall as a building, and I had to crane my head up to gawk at the faraway ceiling lamp. I feared my size would begin to diminish again at any moment; if I became any smaller, I would surely go out like a candle.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement. I whipped my head around and caught sight of the old man. He was as tall—or rather, as short—as I, and he was running toward the now average-sized door with his pocket watch swinging from his hand like a pendulum. I followed him as quickly as I could while trying to keep out of his range of sight. My tiny legs could only cover so much distance, and the room was now as vast as a field. The old man hurried with more coordination than I did; he seemed to be used to being so little. Nevertheless, he was slower, and I managed to keep pace behind him.

Once he reached the door, he paused and bent over to rest his hands on his knees. “Oh dear,” he said, panting, “I cannot be late.”

He withdrew a silver key and slid it into the keyhole. The door opened with a click, swinging out wide enough that I could see the forest beyond. It was a mixture of shadow and glittering green—of tree trunks fat and tree trunks towering—of leaves that spread out like fans and of branches so winding that they seemed to create a labyrinth. There were flowers I had never seen and those that I had—fields of daisies even more never-ending than that in the churchyard at home. The butterflies were all the colors of the rainbow, and the ladybugs were so large that only one would be able to fit in the palm of my hand. It was a place to be marveled at—a place of curiosities and things that could not be found anywhere else. It was a place you could wander for years and never truly understand.

All this I understood with one glance.

“Wonderland,” the old man muttered before he rushed toward the woods.

I stepped through the doorway and saw that was exactly where I was.

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I never meant for this to happen.

Everyone dreams of that one event—that one encounter that sparks something extraordinary into motion. Some people even think their dream will someday turn into a much sought-after reality. I, on the other hand, was not one of those people. I knew my life was a series of boring events after boring events—of small town customs and schoolwork and familial outings. Never did I expect anything to change. But I suppose that’s the purpose of a surprise; it hits you when you’re least prepared and takes you on a journey that maybe you wished to go on and maybe you didn’t. And if at first you were unwilling, when the day is done, it is possible that you realize just how good of a ride it was.

At least that’s how it went for me.

My story began on a midsummer’s day—a day when the sky was clear and the warm air was permeated only by the slightest of breezes. I was sitting under the shade of a yew tree that must’ve been as old as the village itself, for its trunk was thicker than any other I had seen and its boughs drooped down and formed a sort of wall, obstructing my field of vision. Surrounding the tree was a field of daisies, their little yellow faces smiling up at the sun, and a short distance behind was the church, built hundreds of years ago in the red sandstone distinctive to the area. I had come here too many times to count in the short sixteen years of my life, and I could not help but think of this tree as my tree, this churchyard as my churchyard, and these daisies as the ones that I ran amongst when I was a child.

One time, my sister made me a daisy chain for me to put in my hair, and I wore it the entire day, feeling as if I were a princess and I ruled every flower in the land. For some reason, that memory returned to me now, and I felt tempted to ask my sister, Alexandra, to create another headdress for me. She sat beside me, absorbed in a thick text book that she brought home with her for the summer holidays. Years had passed since she first gathered those daisies, and now she was a graduate student at Oxford, studying history and planning on becoming a teacher once she finished her studies. She was not afraid of leaving university; rather, she was eager to enter the real world, as she called it, for she felt that it would be the true test of her capability.

If I was in her position, I would have been quivering with fear. I was thankful for the shelter that accompanied the time before adulthood; I was so nearsighted that I could not imagine what I would be doing in five years. There was the real world, and then there was my world, where I swore to myself that I would stay for as long as possible. At some point, I knew I must leave, but I tried my best not to think about that. I lived in the present, reminisced the past, and did my best to ignore the future.

Which was why it annoyed me whenever my sister brought it up.

“Alice,” she said presently. “Don’t you think you should be doing something a little more useful than watching the clouds drift by?”

“I can’t see the clouds; the branches are blocking my view,” I replied.

She sighed, and I glanced over at her. She was beautiful—far more beautiful than I. Her eyes were a striking shade of yellow-green, and her delicate features—along with her slender body—gave her a dainty look that sharply contrasted against my clumsiness. I was not tall, but I was taller than she, and my twig-sized legs made the difference seem drastic. I was gawky while she had the grace of a ballerina. The only similarity between us was our hair, which was the same color black as our mother’s. Alexandra’s hair was shorter than mine, however, and her side fringe swept prettily across her forehead.

“You’re not going to get anywhere in life if you never do anything productive,” she said as if she were disciplining a student. “Don’t you have a book to read or something?”

I scoffed. “It’s the summer. I’m taking a break.”

“Albert’s not taking a break, and he’s younger than you,” she said. “I saw him studying his Latin yesterday.”

Albert was our little brother. He was only thirteen—ten years younger than Alexandra. Sometimes I wondered if he was an accident, or if my parents planned on having him because they knew he would make me look bad. He was a rising scholar; he had the top notes in his class and seemed to be a walking dictionary—of English and Latin words.

I obviously wasn’t the brightest one in the family.

“Well, he’s Albert, and he has more brains than anyone else in Cheshire,” I said, rising to my feet. “I’m Alice, and I suppose the only thing I’m useful for is picking daisies. I would ask if you’d like to come with me, but I know you’re too busy with that dreadful book of yours.”

She shook her head disapprovingly and returned her eyes to the miniscule text on the page. Not always had she been like this. When she was younger, she had been just as carefree as I—frolicking through the flowers and daydreaming about impossible things—things like magic and colorful castles and a world of nonsense. Now she was more practical: a realist, as she put it, whereas my head was always so far up in the clouds that not even an airplane could find it.

I pulled the low-hanging branches of the yew tree away so that I could form a gap large enough for me to step out of. The sea of daisies was immense, rolling down into a valley beside the narrow lane that led to the church. Hardly any cars ever passed by; most people used the main road to reach the building. I descended the little hill, for it was a sunny day and the trees by the lane offered plenty of shade. It was pleasantly cool here, and the boughs under which my sister sat were out of sight. I crouched down and picked a handful of flowers before I was startled by a sudden cry.

“Oh dear, I’m late!”

I looked up and saw an old man hurrying along the lane, his cheeks pink with exertion. He was humorously small, with stooped shoulders and wisps of white hair that grew on the crown of his head and near his ears. His clothes were elegant and reminiscent of a previous time; he wore white gloves and carried a fan. In his other hand was a pocket watch, which he kept glancing at nervously. He was so preoccupied that he did not notice me when he approached, and he resumed talking to himself as though no one else was there to listen.

“The Queen will not be happy—not happy indeed!” he said, and I noticed that his two front teeth were abnormally large and bucked. “Oh dear, oh dear, how late I am!”

I stood and cleared my throat. Surprised, he turned to gawk at me through his oversized, round spectacles. From this close a distance I could see that his eyes were puffy and pink, and his nose twitched every few seconds as if he were about to sneeze.

“You work for the Queen?” I asked.

“Yes, yes,” he said quickly. “But you see, I don’t have time for—”

“Then what are you doing all the way in Cheshire?” I interrupted. “I hear the Queen is in Scotland this time of year.”

He cocked his head for a second; then, realization dawned on his leporine face. “No, no, no—not that Queen. A different Queen.” I opened my mouth to speak, but he immediately stopped me by adding, “Now is not the time for questions, mind you. I am terribly late, and the Queen—my Queen, not yours, yet I suppose your Queen would be my Queen as well, for I am English myself”—he checked his pocket watch once again—“Oh dear, I shall be much too late!”

He rushed to the center of the lane and glanced back at me. “You must look away; this is of the utmost secrecy,” he said gravely. “If you choose to pry, you will gain nothing but trouble. As they say, curiosity killed the cat—although there is one very much living cat whose curiosity unfortunately has not managed to kill him yet.”

“You wish for a cat to die?” I asked, appalled. I had a cat of my own; her name was Diane, and she was my favorite member of the family.

He made an impatient sound and waved the subject away with a gesture. “No matter. Just look away!”

I did as I was told—for the briefest of moments. When I took a glimpse at him, he was crouching on the ground, too engrossed in whatever it was he was doing to make sure I was following his orders. He tapped his fan twice against the asphalt, and after a few seconds, a gap large enough for a man to fit in appeared. In one swift movement, he sprung into the hole with an agility that belonged more to a creature than a human.

I gasped and ran toward where he had jumped. He was gone—the gap was dark and so deep that I could not see to the bottom. “One massive pothole,” I mused aloud. “I wonder where it leads to.”

If curiosity was able to kill the cat, which had nine lives, it would certainly do worse to me. But I could not resist. I followed the old man down.

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