For this holiday weekend I have something a little different for you. I hope you enjoy it, and that it sticks with you long after you’ve finished reading. May I present “Shadows and Stained Glass.”
The moon wades into the restless ocean,
Scattering captions of light across the cresting waves.
Perhaps it tries to speak to him of brighter tomorrows,
But it whispers words foreign to his ears.
He rises from the inky pools of the towering rock’s shadow,
Breath like seaweed gusting with the sand.
Will she be here? Has she forgotten him at last?
Her feet flutter across the dunes as she entraps him in a cage of arms.
“My dearest shade. Has Justice prevailed?”
Justice. Yes. Justice was his name.
“I have returned for you, my love,” he rasps.
“And I you,” she says, tears straying wayward across her cheeks.
“Surely you will now accompany me home, won’t you?
“You need no longer fend this cold when warmth lies so near.”
“You know I cannot,” he says. “I would surely die.”
Her eyes pierce him. “There are worse things than death.”
The ship looms on the horizon. It is early.
“No!” she moans. “They steal you now? We have just met!”
“I must go,” Justice says. “I will return for you in one year.
“As long as I live our love shall never die.”
He kisses her. Kelp brushes rose.
And then he runs for the surf.
“Justice!” she calls.
“Do not forget your name!”
“Never again!” he cries.
And then he dives into a world where she cannot follow.
. . .
One year passes.
Ebony clings to hidden hollows in the whitewashed dunes.
She steps onto the sand that divides them
And waits amidst an hourglass’ heart.
Will he come? Has he forgotten at last?
His voice creaks like rigging in the wind:
“My dear lady. Justice prevails.”
Delight spills from her mouth. Soft fingers entwine bone.
“He has indeed!” she says. “How keeps our time?”
“Time is a fickle trickster,” he says. “Let us walk while it runs true.”
They pursue their thoughts down the beach,
Not stopping until sharp angles intrude upon the delicate curves.
“Come inside with me,” she entreats. “Leave these dark depths behind.”
“You desire an impossibility, Fairest,” Justice says. “I cannot so quickly forget!”
“I desire only your liberation, good Justice. Pray, grant me this boon.”
“You ask me to forsake all we have founded,” he replies.
“It is my duty to preserve our union.”
“’Tis nothing but a vagrant memory, Love,” she whispers.
“Our union is long-since broken. Perchance, do you remember my name?”
His movements clot like the blood in his veins. “I –“
They arise from the ocean’s depths,
Barnacles clacking with their teeth.
“Come, Sailor. Your time is up.”
They rip her hope from her arms.
“Justice!” she cries. “Remember this place! Remember my name!”
His reply drowns beneath the surf.
. . .
He pierces frigid cold with the crown of his skull.
Snow flurries waltz with the sand before bedding down on the beach.
Something is wrong.
She is not here. Has she forgotten at last?
“My dear!” Justice cries. “I beseech you, come!
“Where lies that deep grace I ache for?”
The only reply is the wind’s howl.
A phantom flickers in his eye’s periphery,
A half-seen form drifting in the snow.
“My love!” Justice cries. Turning, he pursues.
The shape billows through the dusk, pressing on down the surf.
“Do not leave me, dear!” Justice says. “You are my only reason!”
Does the wind whisper in reply?
He follows the shifting snowdrifts, running and stumbling after.
“Come to me, I beg you!” he says.
“I have done this for us! Without you ‘tis meaningless!”
There is no reply, save the form dissolving in the night.
A tortured moan wrenches free from Justice’s lips.
He sees it then, rising like a dark specter amidst the white.
He collapses to his knees before it, raising fish-eaten hands towards its spire.
“Now at last I understand,” he cries.
“What worth has a life when it lacks a soul?
“What good are sound works without the spark of hope?
“In preserving our present I crippled our future.
“Please, forgive me my wrongs!”
The surf spews them up,
Gurgling figures with seaweed intestines.
“Come, sailor. You leave with us now.”
Her name erupts inside him,
And he bellows it with as much breath as he possesses.
Does the sunrise bloom, or a light from within?
The church’s crystalline mosaic flashes ablaze;
An angel with stained glass wings alights upon Justice.
The doors of the church burst open
And the two shambling sailors surge into flames.
The angel is like mercy, wrapping Justice in wings of cerulean and jade.
Their lips and tears meet once more.
At last he understands the pleas of the moon and the wind.
The blaze finally fades,
And Justice’s ashes mingle with the snow and the sand.
“(W)ithout justice to the full there can be no mercy, and without mercy to the full there can be no justice; that such is the mercy of God that He will hold His children in the consuming fire of His distance until they. . . rush inside the centre of the life-giving fire whose outer circles burn.”
George MacDonald – The Unspoken Sermons
I actually wrote this story/poem several years ago. I always really liked it, but I was never able to find the right market for it. It was too long to be a poem, too short to be a story. And its format was weird, too. So it sat, and I kept thinking about it. Then, when I remembered it again recently, I realized I should post it on here and see what you all thought. I mean, hey, if anyone is impacted by it, then that’s better than it collecting dust for another couple years, right? So thanks for reading it, and I hope it touched you somehow.
Speaking of, what did you think of it? I’d love to hear. And if you enjoyed it would you mind sharing it with someone else who might? Thanks. I appreciate it.
Last of all, if you liked this you might just love my new book, “The Complete Cancer Diaries.” It’s a book for if you’re needing a little hope in your life, and it’s available for as low as $2.99 from Amazon. You can get it right here.
Happy Valentine’s Day, happy President’s Day, and God bless you!