ISSN 1551-8086
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   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Han Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Scott Alexander
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Nicole Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Veronica An
   Zack Anderson
   Amy Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Lawrence Berger
   Kevin Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Craig Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Heitham Black
   Jarvis Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Adam Levon Brown
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Leah Brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Zachary C. Bush
   Tony Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Neil Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Dana Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   HélÚne Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Phil Clark
   Terry Clark
   Darice Clark
   Terry Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Karen E. Cole
   Merrill Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conesa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J. de Salvo
   J de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Dorsey
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   t. joseph dunn
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Ron Dvorkin
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amelie Frank
   Amélie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Vince Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Jeff Green
   Timothy Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   David Harrington
   Matt Harris
   William Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Jessica Healy
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   Eric Howard
   Nate Howard
   David Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor Infante
   Victor D. Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Alex Johnson
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Lois P. Jones
   Tao Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gary Justice
   Gene Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Bernard Kennedy
   Raud Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Ashley King
   Robert S King
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Thomas KrÀmer
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Gerard Kuc
   Christopher Kuhn
   Donna Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Kasandra Larsen
   Wolf Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Anne Lecrivain
   Marie Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Pete Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   Emma Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Lee Mason
   Hyatt Mason
   Anthony Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   David McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Robert John Miller
   Scott Miller
   Richard Lee Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Greggory Moore
   Carl Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Toti O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Nina Orlovskaya
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
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   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Kristena Prater
   Luke Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Emily Rose
   Rina Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
   Alison Ross
   James Robert Rudolph
   Walter Ruhlmann
   Gina MarySol Ruiz
   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
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   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
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   Howard Sage
   Russell Salamon
   April Salzano
   Bryan Sanders
   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
   Ethan Sassouni
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   Lorraine Sautner
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   Peter Schwartz
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   Sondra L. Scott
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   Lisa Segal
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   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
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   Dahn Shaulis
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   June Shiitake
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   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
   Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
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   Lee Sloca
   Carol Smallwood
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   Clinton Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
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   Karr Stratynberg
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   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Dee Sunshine
   Mani Suri
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   Barbara A. Taylor
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   Allen Taylor
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    The Unarmed Man
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   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
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   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Evan Traiger
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   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
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   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
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   Gene van Troyer
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   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
   Daniela Voicu
   Claire Walker
   toren wallace
   r.k. wallace
   Evan Walsh
   Sharieff Walters
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   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Leigh White
   Megwynn White
   Kelley White
   J.T. Whitehead
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   Patrick Williamson
   Martin Willitts, Jr
   Jessica Wilson
   Robert D. Wilson
   Amye Wilson
   Alicia Winski
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   Nina Womack
   Seth Woolf
   Kirby Wright
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   Julie Yi
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   Gregory T. Young
   Omar ZahZah
   Mariano Zaro
   Michael Zeltser
    
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Keith Stump
December 2008
   

 

The Gift

Let me help you.
Her first words, on the library steps.
She stooped to retrieve my books, the ravages of arthritis painfully evident. I looked down, regarding her thick but graying black hair, not unlike my own, and felt a pang of guilt over her effort to help me.
She rose stiffly, glancing at the books and replacing them atop the precarious stack in my arms.
Then she turned to me, her eyes shining. They were clear, compelling eyes, bright and blue, the beautiful blue of a robins egg. Her smile was dazzling, her face beatific.
It was completely unexpected. I took a quick breath of utter astonishment, and stared at her until she blushed.
Thank you so much, I managed.
Is Anthony Trollope typical of your taste in literature? She laughed with her mouth and her eyes.
Im researching Victorian parliamentary life. For a novel. My fourth novel, truth be told, in the wake of three unfinished manuscripts, written and abandoned during a series of dead-end jobs. But I kept that to myself.
A writer! she beamed.
Maybe a writer.
No maybes. You must say it with confidence!
All right, then a best-selling author-to-be!
She was professionally attired in a stylish navy pantsuit trimmed in white. Though well into middle age, there was a vivacity about her, a youthful vigor, an air of enjoying life and knowing the secret of living it well.
Im Tess. It was a voice with the music of singing in it.
She extended her hand, then laughed and withdrew it.
Pardon my stack. Im Paul.
Then that smile againwarm, generous, spontaneous, lighting her up from inside. There was something indefinably striking in her appearance and manner. She had an aura about her, a delicate yet provocative sensuousness combined with a natural charm and the gift of assurance.
Im late for work, Paul. Careful with those books!
She started up the stairs, then turned and looked back.
When youre finished with Trollope, come down to the sub-level. Im absolute dictator of the History stacks. There was liquid, loving laughter in her voice.
The attraction was immediate and total. I was hopelessly, hopelessly lost in the brightness of her being.
* * *
Of the hundred things I thought, there was only one I dared say. You have made an impression on me, I told her at dinner the following weekend. I felt an inexplicable bond between us, out of all proportion to the brief time wed known each other.
A blush of pleasure rose to her cheeks. Its nice of you to say so.
Then that smile againan intimate smile, beautiful with brightness.
We sat in conversation over a corner table strewn with the detritus of a leisurely meal. Candlelight flickered across her face, and she glowed with warmth and life. She spoke with directness, intelligence and wit. Her insights were uncanny, as if she knew me better than I knew myself.
I sensed that something significant was unfolding, as though I were on the cusp of some monumental event. Everything would change for meand change forever.
I was more than ready for change. I had not lived the life I had hoped for. I had let the years slip through my fingers, settling for a routine existence, losing sight of where I was going, and why. Youthful dreams of fame and accomplishment had turned into bitterness and thwarted ambitions. As I grew older, the burden of never having been truly happy and successful weighed heavily on me. I wanted those years back, so I could live them better. I wanted to begin again.
Tess would have none of it. Whats past is past! Squandering the rest of your life in regret will accomplish nothing. Your past is not your potential. Its never too late to reactivate your dreams!
Simple concepts, but they struck home with a force beyond mere words. She spoke with gentleness and compassion, without judging or blaming. And something opened up inside me, something inexpressibly liberating and empowering, a sudden realization that the full richness and promise of my potential lay before me for the taking! Through the magic of her words, my soul blossomed with strength and purpose. I sensed an awakening, a rebirth, a transformation underway within me. The very air seemed infused with ambition! Through Tess, I was becoming a new personright there, right then!
After a while, our words trailed off and we sat in silence, searching each others eyes in the soft candlelight. When the flame died, we took no notice. Our senses reached out to each other, mind touching mind, the secret threads of our communication weaving psychic tapestries in the space between us. There was a strange, dreamlike quality about itso warm and intimate, so mesmerizing. Neither of us uttered a word, but soul spoke to soul, expressing the inexpressible.
Then she reached to me, and the touch of her hand ran like fire up my arm. She whispered my name in the darkness.
The sounds of the other tables faded. All I heard was her voice. All I saw was her face.
* * *
I spent the next morning in a state of controlled excitement. We had agreed to meet again that evening for a walk around the lake. But as the day progressed, those plans looked more and more uncertain. The air smelled of rain. Heavy rolling clouds massed across the horizon. A storm was moving in.
I walked in the yard, thinking, losing all track of time, listening to the wind rushing through the treetops. Thunder rumbled ominously in the distance. Then it began, as it had always begun. Out of nowherebarely perceptible at firstI was assailed by a creeping uneasiness. I was worried, and I wasnt sure why. Doubts were gathering like nimbus clouds against the darkening sky.
When the rain began, I retreated inside in a state of gray unease. I stared at the rain as it battered against the window, and fell into a strange, abstracted state. What was this awful dread that had crept across my soul, this gloomy foreboding? Something was stirring within mea warning voice, a sense of impending calamity. My confidenceso invincible the night beforewas evaporating before my eyes. The somber sky was an outward metaphor for the gray doubt that had descended into the very marrow of my being.
I had found something precious, and feared to lose it, as I had lost so many other things. I had found Tess, and, through her, renewed ambition. But surely hope and desire would be shattered again. Why would it be different this time?
Yes, that was the meaning of this fearful melancholy. That was always it. On the brink of change, I manufactured dark visions of crisis, danger and disasterself-defeating scenarios that thwarted my ambition and sabotaged my efforts. That naysaying inner voice: This manuscript is no good. No one will read it. Shes out of your leaguedont even try. I had typecast myself in the role of failureunworthy, undesirable, undeserving.
The day had been a microcosm of my lifehigh spirits and all-things-possible optimism, followed by doubts and indecision that sapped my power to take the next step. The only way forward, Tess had said, was to see my insecurities for the chimeras they really were. They were illusions, fabrications, mirages, phantoms of the imagination, spectres with no real form or substance. I heard her words again, battering their way through the stubborn clouds, conquering the darkness, rekindling the flame of ambition that had flared in me the night before. I would beat it this time! This time I would win! Her words shone with the clarity of the sun. Black dejection was replaced by a profound and enigmatic peace. Unclouded by doubt, life and purpose returned.
Late in the day, the rain moved on. I threw open a window, and a fresh breeze blew through the room. The setting sun bathed the hills with a golden radiance. I felt renewed, washed clean in sunlight. I lingered by the window, watching the dark come on.
She would come when she could, she had said. In the distance, I could discern the vague shapes of the trees by the lake. My senses reached out into the night, seeking some sign of her, sending her a message across the darkness.
And then she was there.
* * *
We talked until the moon rose, and long after. The wind came up again, and the stars began to show between the thinning clouds. The air felt fresh and clean. How exhilarating it was to be there, with her so near, whispering together in the darkness. Banished were the dark premonitions of the afternoon. I was with her again!
Her words were like a warm embrace in the chill night air. Again she prodded me to shake off the clouds of doubt and fear and to embrace my purpose. In life, as in writing, its never too late to revise! Carefully I fixed the night in my mindevery word, every gesture, every sight and sound. I must not lose hold of the reality of this moment! This time I would remember! This time I would change!
She stood close, her body pressing into mine. I felt the heat of her nearness. Soon we surrendered to the crush of feelings that drew us together. My hand swept to the back of her neck. I pressed my lips to hers, which parted in mute invitation. It was a hungry kiss, breathless and urgent, a kiss full of passion and need. A gentle moan escaped her lips as her hand tightened on mine.
In the intimacy of darkness, we stood in silence. I knew then that I could never let her go. She was my fate. She possessed me completely.
She seemed to have tracked my thoughts. Always, she whispered. Always.
In the stillness of the night, in that quiet interlude, that moment of peace, a sweeping ecstasy filled my soul. I met her gaze, and felt the strength of it. She searched my face, her eyes bright with tears.
The far, shrill whistle of a locomotive pierced the night.
She smileda private smileand was gone.
* * *
I was awakened by the kettle on the stove, my eyes resting on the afterimage of her face.
Gradually I became aware of my surroundings. First, the ticking of the clock on the nightstand. Then the aromas of breakfast. I opened my eyes. A gap in the curtains admitted a shaft of sunlight filled with dust motes. Still halfway between sleeping and waking, I followed their languid motion as they floated lazily in the still air of the room.
The sense of the past was powerful. I struggled for orientation, my eyes gradually re-familiarizing themselves with the details of the room in which I had spent most of my teenage years. It was my grandmothers guest room, just as it always was: the polished mahogany bureau, the oak dresser and antique bevel plate mirror, the rocker, the drop-leaf writing desk, the big brass bed, the hardwood floor covered with Persian carpet, the afghan-draped leather chair. All ominously familiar.
Last day of school!
My grandmothers voice.
Then I understood.
The grief was immediate and overwhelming. For the first time in my young life, I knew the meaning of despair.
In waking, I had lost her.
Frantically I tried to will myself back to sleep. Overwhelmed by thoughts of loss, insane with rage and grief, I begged her to return, crying out for her presence. But no amount of effort could return me to that imagined life, and to the arms of Tess.
Tears flew down my cheeks like rain. My mouth was open in a silent screamsorrow upon sorrow, grief upon grief. I was mourning a death.
I sat motionlessstunnedabsorbing the terrible knowledge of my loss. My memory closed around her, clutching at the vague afterimage of this woman literally of my dreams. I huddled in the covers, protecting that place in my heart that only she had ever reached.
I closed my eyes, and was filled with remembering.
* * *
My days were filled with memories of a lifetime lived in a dream. I was overtaken by a vast and impenetrable sadness, an all-engulfing grief. Part of me had been torn away, ripped asunder, irretrievably lost. I was plunged into gloom and despair. The longing for her presence was a dull, aching pain that refused to go away.
Numbly, mechanically, I went through the motions of my high school graduation. To those who knew me, I looked vacant, spent, infinitely sorrowful. I spent my days wandering aimlessly through lonely streets, lost in thought, pondering the meaning of my dream. Hunger and thirst were forgotten. I was drained of energy, drained almost of life itself. I was no longer in this world in any of the ways that mattered. I was a restless and inconsolable spirit, wandering down a road that had no end, where there was neither night nor day.
Where had it come from? Why would one so young dream of being old, and invent such feelings for a woman decades his senior? And why a dream of a wasted life? Was it secret fear of failure, fear that nothing would go according to plan? Had teenage insecurities manufactured this bleak and gloomy future?
Or did part of memy higher selfknow the path ahead, and was crying out for me to take another road, telling me that the future is not set? Some people believe that all times are alive, and that the future is somehow there to be seen. Was I reading my own mind across time--sending myself a message of warning, and of hope?
Or was Tess my anima, that female element locked deep within the unconscious male mind, that now and then emerges to guide a man to the depths of his soul?
Was it a warning from God?
A vision of an alternate reality?
A mere romantic boyhood fantasy, cobbled together from books and films?
Or had a woman who loved me when I was old somehow reached back to my young mind to return my squandered years to me?
I despaired that I would ever know. I passed from gloom to optimism and back to gloom. Pictures would rise unbidden to the surface of my mind--images of Tess, triggered by a word or a scent or a touch. Memories came crowding back, fragments of an irretrievable past, a past that was no longer my past--memories sometimes so vivid, so close; at other times out of focus, distant. Her luminous eyes. The radiance of her smile. The sound of her voice.
As the weeks passed, the haunting images began to fade, mercifully dulling the cutting edge of my despair. What was left, in the end, was a warm kernel of happiness, distilled from memorymemories of days lightened by her cheerfulness and grace, by the soft essence of her being, by the incandescence of her presence. Her remembered words, tokens of love, slowly took away the brooding hurt, as I understood their message of reassurance and hope. They were words from a dreama dream that had interposed itself between a young life and the latent prospect of a desolate future. Where had those words come from? What was this marvel that had touched me with its insight, then vanished into the mist?
Whatever it was, it was a gift.
* * *
The rest of that summermy seventeenthwas filled with reading and writing, with laughter and friends. Freshly energized, I was following my passion, doing what I loved. That was the pact I had made with myself. I was young again, with my whole life spread out before methe slate of my imagined future wiped clean. Tess had shown me the wonder of living, the sweet promise of the future. She had given me faith in my ability to build a better life than I might otherwise have known. I felt as though I was reclaiming something Id lost, being given a second chance. The whole world was bathed in sunlight!
It was a summer rich with colors and smells and light, a summer of picnics and ice cream, of baseball and band concerts, of birdsong and fireflies, of the aromas of pies on the sill, home-baked bread and fragrant flowers, of flaming red sunsets, and of people sitting on their porches whiling away the evening. I was alive, happy, and loving every minute of it. I was filled with the adventurous anticipation of youth, a grand passion for life that I had never known before. I was doing what Tess had urged--never letting a day slip by without savoring its sweetness. The days were wonderful. Life was wonderful!
In the fall, I entered college, resisting family pressure to study business and finance, immersing myself instead in literature. Youre playing it too safe, Tess had said. Take some creative risks! I entered enthusiastically into college life, writing articles for the literary journal and plays for the drama workshop, rejecting the inner voice that mocked and derided and told me I wasnt good enough. Many spoke highly of my work. Those who didnt could not deter me. My resolve was fixed, my ambition unshakeable!
My first novel was published during my senior year. A year later, another. The next year, a successful screenplay, and agents clamoring for my attention.

Then, one day
A young woman in loose shirt and slacks, calling to a friend.
Im late for work!
That voice!
She was bounding up the library stairs, two at a time. Her hair flew out in silky tangles, black as ravens wings.
Tess!
She stopped, and turned.

copyright 2008 Keith Stump