They say March comes in like a lion
And tippy-toes out like a lamb.
But where I live things are all backwards,
And, frankly, I don’t understand.
When March came along all was quiet;
Our lion must have been asleep.
For weeks we’ve had somnolent weather,
Right up to March’s last week.
Now trash cans are tossed to the neighbor’s;
A box on the porch flies around.
The flagpole is bending way over,
And outside I can’t stand my ground.
This last week of March is so gusty
With all sorts of things on the wing.
Our lion has finally wakened
And now wants to prove he’s still king.
So many thousands of young men and women paid an awful price by giving their lives. More thousands have been paying the price ever since coming home, because the traumatic effects of serving in this war — and then being rejected by their own countrymen — have never come to an end for them.
A few years ago, while doing research for a book, I interviewed some men who served in the Vietnam War. Their stories were horrific and even now bring tears to my eyes just remembering. I obviously don’t have space here to recount all that was shared with me, but I’m impressed to share one story from a man who was held prisoner for years in some of the most brutal North Vietnamese prisons, including the “Hanoi Hilton.”
He related the details of how they were kept in isolation and tortured in prison camps (before being moved to the “Hanoi Hilton”), and how one of the worst experiences was being isolated in huts and having no way to communicate with the other prisoners also suffering isolation and torture. He explained that in one such prison, the prisoners gradually worked out a plan to grasp onto any tiny pieces of paper or cloth of any kind – a possible gum wrapper dropped by a guard, a scrap of envelop blown against the hut by the wind – a torn piece of cloth from a garment – whatever they could find that could be written on. Then because they had no ink, they would use their own blood to write with, using a twig to make the marks on the paper or cloth.
In order to get the blood to use as ink, they would cut their own bodies with whatever they could find that worked. He showed me how a few of the men who, for some unexplained reason, still had very small combs in their possession, swung their arms around and around to get the blood to flow into their fingers more forcefully, and then they would stab at the backs of their fingers with the teeth of those combs to get the blood to flow. He said it seemed that since the finger area has very little flesh, it didn’t take a deep would to get blood flowing from them. They then dipped the twig into their blood and wrote little notes to other prisoners and secretly passed them from man to man whenever they were moved about and got within close proximity to other prisoners.
I’m not sure why this particular experience had such an impact on me, but it did. I think partly it was because of the terribly cruel treatment that accompanied it, but also because of the incredible resilience of the human spirit: Those men absolutely refused to surrender to the cruelty and give up the will to connect with other men of like spirit and try to encourage and comfort them. They made a way when there was no way because the human spirit is stronger than the demonic powers that try to suppress and destroy it.
So today, I just want to say to all those who served and sacrificed — and who are still trying to recover — we acknowledge you and thank you with our whole hearts. I wish we could do more to make it up to you.
This is the same watercolor and ink sketch that I did earlier, but in a different color combination.
He was wounded for my transgressions.
For my sin He was beaten and scourged.
His pure blood it did flow
For my lost, helpless soul
Until all of my sin it had purged.
It’s been a long time since I first shared this video, so I thought I’d give it a fresh airing, along with an invitation to visit my ministry YouTube channel if you haven’t yet done so. If you’d like to be notified each time we post a new video, just click the “Subscribe” button, and click on the little bell symbol to control the setting for your notifications.
Now enjoy this encouraging message.
This is so sweet. Wanted to share it here.
I was intrigued by the photo in the “What Do You See?” challenge this week on Sadje’s blog. What I wrote is not my normal form of writing. I’m generally prone to write stories with a lot of dialogue. But unusual prompts bring out unusual qualities in our natures sometimes, and I enjoyed doing this little character study instead.
Belladonna McGuire was used to the other kids in 10th grade laughing at her. Most of them didn’t like geometry, and even the ones who did were never interested in spending their free time working on geometric projects. And, it wasn’t as if Belladonna received any encouragement at home where her favorite activity was concerned. Her mother worked at the local market 6 days a week, from 8:00 in the morning until 5:30. And her dad was virtually never home. He spent his…
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I’m running really late with trying to participate in Sadje’s “What Do You See?” challenge, but I managed to write this little poem before the deadline. As soon as I saw the vacancy sign, I knew I had to write about lost love. The photo is courtesy of Carter Saunders @ unsplash.com.
I’m sure the world can see the sign.
It flashes from my eyes.
My heart, which once was full of love,
Now mourns with tears and sighs.
You filled me with your golden love;
At least I thought ’twas so.
But suddenly you took your love
And said you had to go.
You’ve given yourself to someone new;
I’ll never comprehend
How I could have been so deceived
By nothing but pretend.
My heart is vacant now, indeed,
And all the world can tell.
I’ll keep it vacant from now on:
I’ve learned my lesson well.
Sadje’s “What Do You See?” challenge is really a challenge this week. But I decided to take a whimsical approach and came up with this little poem.
He lived his life connected
To all of cyberspace.
He swiped and clicked and texted
At an amazing pace.
His phone was an appendage
That never left his grip.
To work, to play, to bathroom —
It always made the trip.
There were some friends who warned him
That he was too intense;
His focus on that device
Went beyond common sense.
He couldn’t stop himself though.
At every little ‘ding’
He had to stop whatever,
And bow to that darn thing.
Now, years after his passing,
From underneath the sod,
He still can hear that ‘dinging’
From what he’d made his god.
And though beneath the grasses
He lies in somber state,
His claw-like hands reach for it,
But, alas, it is too late.
The question for this week is “What do I see in this picture?” Well, I have to say that I see a rejected lover here, and my response is to try to put his feelings into words in a short free verse poem. If you’d like to participate in the WDYS challenge, visit Sadje’s blog here.
that you would love me
as I love you.
even as my flowers
caress you face,
of someone else;
you are with him.
can I find healing
for my heart?
love causes pain
that can’t be cured.
to love and lose
or never love
for each of us.
I choose to love.
I just discovered the “what do you see” writing challenge today, and as soon as I saw the picture prompt, I was transported back to a story I wrote some time ago. But it fits the prompt so well, that I thought I’d share it rather than write a different one. I hope that’s okay. If you’d like to participate in the challenge you can find the details at the KEEP IT ALIVE blog.
Joseph sat on the bus, staring out the window, unseeing for the first twenty minutes. His mind just needed rest. So much data – so many words – such volatile emotions – too much to deal with right now. His eyes hurt from the glare of the sun, and he needed to close them for a while. Not yet, though. He couldn’t let himself – not so soon. He couldn’t bear to close himself up in his own private world – his own private hell. Not yet. He had to keep his eyes open so that light and color and motion would bombard his mind for at least a little while longer.
The knot in his chest had loosened some. Maybe that was due in part to the even rhythm of the moving bus and the almost imperceptible sound of the wheels against the hot pavement – things, no doubt, completely unnoticed by the majority of the passengers. But Joseph noticed. He seemed especially attuned to sounds and movement in a new way today. All of it seemed amplified somehow. He let out a deep sigh. I’m probably amplifying them in my own imagination, he thought, to keep my mind off the bitter news I just got.
Finally, thanks to the gentle rocking of the bus, he leaned his head against the back of the seat and let his eyelids drift shut. Another deep sigh. Okay, Joseph, it’s time to deal with it. You can do it, Joe.
He took a deep breath. There, that’s better. Another deep breath. That’s it, Joe. Slow and easy – in – and out – in – and out. See, you’re still alive and breathing. Nothing’s changed all that much.
His thoughts drifted back to Dr. Samuels’ office. He shivered slightly at the memory of how cold he’d felt sitting there on the examination table in just his undershirt and shorts. The sterile smell of the room still clung to his nostrils, and his mind replayed images of the signs on the walls describing various ailments and reminding doctors to wash their hands. He’d read every sign at least a dozen times over the years and knew them by heart, but he still read them every time. It was something to do while he waited for Dr. Samuels, and it kept his mind occupied so that he didn’t try to figure out what the next report might be.
Prior to today’s appointment, he’d imagined numerous possible scenarios and played them over in his mind. Dr. Samuels might say this … and then I would say that … or … maybe he’ll tell me this, and I’ve already made up my mind what my answer will be to that. He closed his eyes a little tighter, stifling a low, mirthless chuckle. Funny – I never – not once – even considered a report like the one I got.
He felt something jostle his arm, so he opened his eyes, looking toward the empty seat on his left. A small, elderly lady had just sat down, and her purse had bumped his arm. “Oh, excuse me,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”
He sat up a little straighter and gave his head a slight shake, hoping to clear it. He hadn’t even noticed the bus had stopped. He glanced out the window and realized they had already come half way to his destination. One more stop, and then he’d be at his own jumping off place. Home. It used to always give him a warm feeling to walk up the small concrete sidewalk, step up onto the little porch alcove with the rose trellis on either side, and open his front door to the cozy living room/office where he devoted hours to the work he loved so well.
Writing was his life – had been ever since his young adulthood. There had never been a marriage. He had hoped there would be a time or two, but it hadn’t worked out. And he wasn’t too sad about it. He had a good life: great friends, great audiences for his books, and a family of his own making. The characters that populated his best-selling novels had been born out of him, hadn’t they? And he loved them – everyone of them – even the villains. And many had been the days when he had rushed home, bursting through the front door with ideas literally pouring from his brain faster than he could get to the keyboard and turn them into words.
Well, Joe, it won’t be the same anymore. Everything’s changed now. He focused on the passing scene outside the window. He read a sign on one of the buildings. Then he read a street sign … and another. The bowling alley sign came next. He was seeing all of them for the zillionth time, but he read every word on every one. He had to keep himself from thinking anymore right now.
Finally, the sign for his own stop came into view. As the driver made the announcement and slid the bus to a smooth stop, Joseph began to rise from his seat, but suddenly he realized his legs felt like lead. He sat back down momentarily, and the lady beside him looked concerned. “Are you all right, sir?”
He made a quick recovery and tried to smile at her. “Y – yes,” he answered. “I think my leg went to sleep. I’ll try to get up more slowly.”
He knew there was nothing wrong with his ability to walk. It was the result of the shock he’d had. The trauma of the news had been enough to shock a better man than he was. He focused all of his mental reserves on making his legs function normally, and finally managed to get up and move out into the aisle. From there, he moved by rote down the steps and through the door to the sidewalk.
As he started down the walk to the next block and his own house, he was amazed that everything around him looked exactly the same. The street looked the same. The traffic whizzed by as usual. The few people he passed looked normal. They spoke a word of greeting and smiled just as if he hadn’t changed at all. Yet his entire world had been wiped out with one simple sentence less than an hour ago.
The roses smelled the same as he stepped onto his porch and inserted his key in the lock. Stepping into the room, he let his eyes search out all the pieces of furniture and equipment that provided his comfortable, peaceful, productive life. He closed the door behind him and walked farther into the room. You’re home Joe. Really home … and it hasn’t changed a bit. It’s exactly the way you left it.
He started to genuinely relax for the first time since he’d stepped into Dr. Samuels’ office three hours ago. He pulled off his jacket, yanked his tie loose and tossed it on the chair after the jacket. He walked to the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of his favorite juice, downing half of it in one drink. His stomach had been so knotted up when he left the doctor’s office that he hadn’t even tried to get lunch. In fact, he’d thought he could never eat or drink again. But he took another drink now. It felt really good going down. And, come to think of it, one of those frozen dinners he’d stocked up on yesterday sounded downright appetizing.
He kicked off his shoes, ambled over to the computer desk, and sat down. Touching the mouse, he focused on the screen. There it was: the new baby – novel number twenty-five – bright and shiny and full of life – staring right back at him from the screen with the familiar challenge that compelled him to create another chapter and another and another. Every word was a part of him – his offspring. Yes, this was life to him. This was all he needed.
Other thoughts tried to intrude, but he pushed them aside. Finally, at one point, he got up and walked to the wall on which he kept his main calendar. He stared at it. Dr. Samuels had said, “Six months at the outside. Maybe not that long. I’m indescribably sorry, Joe.”
Joseph reached up and ripped the calendar off the wall. He tore it in half and tossed in into the waste basket as he spoke out loud in response to the words of the medical report: “What is time, anyway, Doc? It’s all relative, isn’t it? Why, I’ve given hundreds of characters entire lifetimes in less than six months.”
He walked back to the computer and placed his hands on the keyboard again. “Sorry, Doc,” he said quietly, the merest smile on his lips. “I’ve got too many lives depending on me right here in this keyboard. I just don’t have time to die.” ■
(Copyright 2013 Sandra Pavloff Conner)