Rumi said, “You have been released from ten successive prisons/ Each larger and containing the last.” (Coleman Barks translation)
I thought of that quote when I saw the prompt for the Carrot Ranch challenge this week. I used it in one of my poems in Chicken Shift, where escape is a recurring theme.
It’s a great quote; at it’s worst, escaping the pan for the fire; at it’s best, a comforting delusion of linear progression.
But here we are.
“Here’s the pisser, here’s the catch
Any one could peck the latch.”
And then where are we?
Here. Alone together.
Charli’s post and prompt led me back to Robert, my fictional Civil War vet.
Did he imagine as a seventeen year old farm boy that going off to fight the Rebels would be an escape from the Vermont farm, or simply an escape from the perceived limits of childhood? I had some vague idea of showing Robert back on the farm trying to escape his memories of the war through hard work but the flash went differently and upon completion had no mention of “escape” other than stalled development. So I cheat, and use the prompt in the title.
She wiped her eyes with her apron when he came through the gate. Standing awkwardly with her, his eyes rolled quickly over the headstones, finally settling on his own feet. “You’re mourning the young’uns?”
“No. That’s past.”
A thrush called. He looked at her tear stained face, waited.
“I’m mourning Robert.”
“Robert? He’s home Anna. We haven’t lost our oldest boy.”
“He’s not the boy he was.”
“He’s a man now.”
“He’s a broken hurt child. You must see that it’s Thomas, all of seven, looks out for him. I’m mourning the man that our Robert will never become.”
With no argument left, he embraced his wife and mourned with her, allowing his own tears to fall for Robert’s pain, witnessed only by her and the granite markers of their other lost children.
Walking together back to the farmhouse they met Robert carrying a bundled rag.
“What is it Robert?”
“Mice. From the kitchen.”
“Oh, just kill them!” Anna instantly regretted her command, but Robert smiled forgiveness.
“A mother and pink babies. Surely you could allow them to live in the stonewall.”
“Anna, maybe our boy isn’t the man we’d expected. He’s different. But he’s a good man.”