The Shepherd's Blanket

On the first day, I was a question. Which the townspeople asked of the lords, and the lords asked of the priests, and the priests asked of the wise men, and the wise men asked of their own hearts, and their hearts led them to the peasants. They left the walls of the city for the green hills which lay outside, where the cattle grazed and the cottages kept vigil over the landscape. With round eyes, they turned to the little people with their shabby clothes and dirt-covered faces who stood in the grasses, inquiring “Is there ever sound silence? Ever a moment when the heart stops beating and the mind stops whirring, but when we live on? Our spirits yearn for drink, yet we are already half water and half wine. Is there some sacred well into which we can leap? For we are not afraid of falling. We fear only immobility, and we wonder aloud, ‘perhaps we cannot grow more than we have already grown; perhaps we will be the part of the creek that dries up into the Earth.’ It is then that we worry, and we are lost for words.” Then they were but children standing there in the countryside. The peasants, who had asked the question long ago, supplied an answer, saying, “There is silence here and now, but it will never become a part of you unless you become a part of it, and you are not listening properly. Breathing never ceases. Your breathing will slow until it is like the waves of the ocean on the coast. Then until it is like the sound of a rainy afternoon in passing. Then until it is like the coming of the spring every year. Beyond that, your breath will be so wide that it will stretch around you in every direction, and you will be but a tranquil face in a sea of white. Then you will not hear your own heartbeat, for will be the heartbeat. Your mind will not be whirring, for it will have dissolved into your soul. Then your spirit will thirst no more, for you will be a tree planted in a broad, shallow stream; the ever flowing waters will moisten your roots and you will be forever growing. It is transfiguration. From life and into death and then more deeply into life, this cycle which continues as naturally as the seasons change, until you are one with light and with darkness.” Having said this, the peasants bowed their heads. Having heard this, the townspeople and the lords and the priests and the wise men and all of their hearts bowed their heads as well. And the birds in the nearby trees turned to God, and sang.

On the second day, I was somebody being left behind. My beloved stood before me one evening in the meadow when I had thought that all was well, and she kissed me with such tenderness that I believed for a moment that time was only an illusion. But then she turned around to look at the North Star and began to walk towards it, never looking back at her me, her lover. My heart never shattered, it only grew larger until I could feel it resting against the white bone of my ribcage. Every day after she departed, I wrote poems on the trees of the wood behind my house, thinking that perhaps someone might come along and realize that I am who I am. Every evening, Nobody came, with a pair of white wings sprouting from his back, and read all of the poems which I had carved into the bark. He would greet me and embrace me, and I would cry into his shoulder, because he was like my father then. Every night, I looked towards the dark sky to see if my beloved had yet reached the North Star. When I threw back my head to better read the heavens, I could always see a little figure making its way across the blackness, and I waved to my past and to her future, liking to think that she would wave back.

On the third day, I was a moment which drew on too long. I was waiting for my friends to write back to me from faraway, but they were silent. I was waiting for someone to tell me that she loved me, but she did not. I was waiting for the Resurrection after the Crucifixion, but Christ’s body was unmoving behind the boulder.

On the fourth day, I was a songbird. My mother and father were the earth and the sky, and I had been making peace between the two ever since my birth. I had flown all over the lands, and sometimes over the seas, having no destination but always knowing that I would get there. Throughout my travels, I would spread seeds over the places I passed; knowing when I left them that my flight would have given birth to living things. I matured without growing old. I perched on the highest branch of the sycamore tree every evening, and I let my music ride the wind. Some boys threw stones at me, and I fled from them. Some old folks waved to me, and I greeted them with a nod of my feathery head. Some city people ignored me, and I tried to make my song sweeter for them. One child stood beneath me and waited for me to fly down to his hand, but I stayed upon my branch to let him know that the wild birds come only when you do not seek them. I was still, at the center of the present moment, meditating upon ecstasy, and singing about life.
On the fifth day, I was a youth sitting on the porch of his home and watching the stillness moving around him. I was looking at the trees in the distance, and the trees nearby, and the sky of the horizon, and the sky above me, and the houses on remote hills, and the houses of my neighbors. Suddenly, a ball rolled along the road in front of me, the kind with which children played. It almost seemed determined, or at least purposeful, as it moved quietly down the street closer and closer to where I sat. I waited for a lively little one to come running after it, or perhaps a tired parent, but no one came. I waited, watching the ball as it came to a stop in front of me, but still, no one came. After this had continued for some time, I walked over to the road to retrieve it. I held it in my hands and tossed it into the air over and over again. Weary, for some reason unknown to me, I dropped it to the ground and looked towards the setting Sun, which was turning orange as it hung at the edge of the world. I thought of things which had come to pass and the things which were about to, knowing that I would always be myself. I did not fear losing my name because I was rooted in the earth, as deeply as all of my brothers. When I turned back to the spot where I dropped the ball, I was not surprised to see it gone. I began to think naught but in circles, and the circles rolled along as quietly as the ball had. Speaking through the silence, I thanked the angels for their gift to me.
On the sixth day, I was a weeping woman. My father was dying, then, and I was so afraid that he would be a depressed man when he left us. I had lived far away from him for many years, but I loved him all the same, and he knew that I loved him as well. His heart was the biggest which I had ever known, and his smile was the truest which I had ever seen. He lit up a room with his life, and melted people with his kindness, his daughter most of all. But he grew to feel isolated and distressed as he lay, ill, in bed; and the light almost went out of him. That is why I knelt to sob so unashamedly in the marketplace miles away from him, ignoring both the staring eye and sympathetic hand on my shoulder. But I chose to rise soon afterward, and I journeyed to where my father lived. I ran into his house and into his bedroom and I took his hand where he lay, and he was joyful. We were talking of old songs, of old friends, of old love, and of heaven when he closed his eyes and squeezed my hand and passed away. I cried again, then, but could not have been happier, for I knew that I would see his smile when I looked into the face of God.
On the seventh day, I was the shepherd’s blanket. He held me in one calloused hand, and his staff in the other. He carried me from the fields of dusk where his sheep were finishing their grazing all the way to his home, to his fireside bright. He stood before the bed across from the fireplace, where a young child slept, the light playing across the tranquil face. The shepherd smiled and looked into the flames, where he could see the inside of his own heart, the heart which was larger than his body, the heart which was constantly touched by the tender fingers of the Holy Ghost. He turned back to the bed, and spread me out, the better to cover his child.





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This article has 16 comments. Post your own now!

An-eloquent-leaf This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 20, 2012 at 6:23 am
Wow. Wow. I am...almost lost for words in this one. Almost. I just absolutely love this story. It's just...amazing.

I think it's always interesting to read poems written by people who are usually prose-writers and prose written by people who are mostly poets – the byproduct is usually prose with succulent and savory sentences rich with many metaphors and such, along with poetry that follows a more story-like form. And this, my Feathery Bard, is no exception (although I suppose it w... (more »)
 
savetheplanet said...
Sept. 1, 2011 at 10:38 pm
I'm touched that you dedicated this poem to Stargirl, Aderes, and me.  It is beautiful.  Beyond beautiful.  This is my favorite poem so far.  You are more than a question, or a songbird, or someone left behind.  You are an artist, in the truest sense of the word.  I felt this poem in my heart as a I read it, and I knew that it was magnificent.
 
Aderes18 replied...
Sept. 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm
I was very touched too, I thought I mentioned that! Me and my love-sick memory... Let me write a poem for you! :)
 
Thesilentraven This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 3, 2011 at 1:21 pm

I knew when I was at the core of the poem/story that I was creating that it was supposed to be a gift. The poem/story, itself, willed it so; and I was only too happy to comply! Thanks so very much, Liz, your comments are always so sincerely given!

Ha, that would be wonderful, Aderes!

 
savetheplanet replied...
Sept. 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Yes that would be awesome!  I shall write one for you too sometime in the future.  School started and I'm a little buried right now. AP classes and all.

 

I'm kind of confused.  I got one of those emails that's all like Someone rated your article.  Except it was like, someone went through all my articles and rated them a one.  But this person didn't comment so I don't know if there's like something wrong with the poem and this person didn't like the... (more »)

 
Thesilentraven This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 4, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Yeah? Same here, 'cept for the AP classes. :)

That happens to me quite a lot. Sometimes I get about ten emails at one time all from someone who gave my articles a one out of five. Sometimes it's all of my articles. I just sort of ignore it.

 
savetheplanet replied...
Sept. 4, 2011 at 8:52 pm
Weird, wonder why someone would do that.  Especially to your poems, I mean who can dislike the Raven's poems?
 
Thesilentraven This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 5, 2011 at 10:36 am

Aww, thanks!

There will always be people who do that kind of thing, I guess. The solution, again: ignore it.

 
Aderes18 said...
Aug. 31, 2011 at 9:30 pm
This poem is just so amazing, I do hope you become famous one day, so talented, like the Adele of poetry! How is this poem dedicated to me? I couldn't see myself in any of these things. They are all too beautiful to represent me. Reminds me of a thought that I had when I was in Redwood Forest, that we never end, that when we die, we become part of the circle of life. I know this is stupid but because of it, I've wanted to name my daughter circle for the circle of life.
 
Thesilentraven This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 3, 2011 at 1:19 pm

If you cannot see yourself in the lines, dear, you need only look more closely. :)

What a lovely lovely lovely thought! And so very true. That's not stupid at all; it shows that you have proved yourself as an adept name-giver!

You create smiles so often and so kindly, you are the eventide songbird, among other things.

 
Aderes18 replied...
Sept. 4, 2011 at 12:18 am
I can see myself the songbird. My parents are like the earth and the sky, in a way, each of them are so different but still made up of the same things. Know what I mean? And making peace. I am the peacemaker. My grandmother, my namesake who died when I was 8, was the peacemaker too. So, in a way, I feel like when she died, I simply took over her job. :) I like the part about the seeds, I always leave my presence. :) I matured without getting old. That's me, I sill do little kid things. :) ... (more »)
 
Thesilentraven This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 4, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Oh, I'm usually pretty good at guessing. :)

I like what you said about taking over the role of peacemaker. When I was a very young child, family referred to me as the 'peacemaker' or the 'little bishop.' I'm sorry about your grandmother, but, you know, as shown by your name and by your peacemaking, she's still living on. :)

 
Aderes18 replied...
Sept. 4, 2011 at 3:14 pm
:) Thanks. I'm more the implied peacemaker, if you know what I mean. ;)
 
IamtheshyStargirl said...
Aug. 31, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Like a grey, hand-felted woolen blanket, this poem  seems to settle on the shoulders as if it were made from mist and cloud. I have had much experience with these blankets, though they may sometimes be black and cumbersome and be called capes.

I see the shadow of a certain Khalil Gibran standing behind you, his ethereal, dark hand resting on your shoulder.

And I wonder once again about unrequited love, and the health of your father, whoever he may be.

 

&... (more »)

 
IamtheshyStargirl replied...
Aug. 31, 2011 at 5:25 pm

"Our spirits yearn for drink, yet we are already half water and half wine."

The lemon heart is back, turned lemonade by that line.

My very dear Weaver, I can only hope that you feel the beauty of your own words the way I feel them.

 
Thesilentraven This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 3, 2011 at 1:16 pm

A blanket is often the truest gift.

I dare not turn around to behold Gibran's face, for fear that his ghost may disappear when I seek it. So perhaps I will simply feel the warm strength of his hand on my shoulder... and write!

And in the wondering will you find the deepest answers. :)

The Weaver welcomes the return of the lemon heart, as he turns it over lightly in his hands. Does he feel the beauty of his own words? It's hard to say. But I feels the beauty of Stargirl's ... (more »)

 
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