Vronsky followed the conductor to the carriage and at the door to the compartment stopped to allow a lady to leave. With the habitual flair of a worldly man, Vronsky determined from one glance at this lady’s appearance that she belonged to high society. He excused himself and was about to enter his carriage, but felt a need to glance at her once more – not because she was very beautiful, not because of the elegance and modest grace that could be seen in her whole figure, but because there was something especially gentle and tender in the expression of her sweet-looking face as she stepped past him. As he looked back, she also turned her head. He shining grey eyes, which seemed dark because of their thick lashes, rested amiably and attentively on his face, as if she recognized him, and at once wandered over the approaching crowd as if looking for someone. In that brief glance Vronsky had time to notice the restrained animation that played over her face and fluttered between her shining eyes and the barely noticeable smile that curved her red lips. It was as if a surplus of something so overflowed her being that it expressed itself beyond her will, now in the brightness of her glance, now in her smile. She deliberately extinguished the light in her eyes, but it shone against her will in a barely noticeable smile.
The first time we see Anna.
From Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy.
Home. The theme of Katie’s writing challenge. I failed to get a new story for March. I tried, but it didn’t happen. I could tell you the reasons, but you don’t really care. Instead, here is something I wrote few years ago that fits the theme. Next month, something new.
She sits on the porch alone
as we drive by.
Stop on your way back.
Past the house,
we turn up the hill that’s almost too steep.
The trees reach out and touch the car.
as if to comfort, as if they know.
In the clearing, faded flowers lean
in front of slabs of stone,
forever marking the place
where we visit those
we can no longer visit.
Gospel music from across the hollow
filters through the trees.
Dusk is creeping closer.
Has it been that long already?
We leave because we must.
She sits on a swing
built by her husband’s father,
so many year ago.
We sit in rockers
The porch is painted white,
the floor boards brick red.
Once-sharp edges are now round
from years of touch
by those who rest
on the hill above.
The swing creaks back and forth,
a soothing lullaby.
Nearby a bird calls in strong song.
Farther away, another answers.
Still another sings the song of
the solitary bird.
A frog croaks.
Just one, for now.
Others will follow later.
A cool breeze brings relief
from the hot, muggy day.
The serenity of the world
from the porch
All things of youth
are memories now.
He is gone.
Though there are friends,
though there is family,
she is alone.
She embraces the solitude.
I love this porch, she says.
In the mornings
on the swing
I am blessed.
And he brought me
to this house,
I am blessed.
copyright joseph e bird, 2016
more music on this cool saturday morning.
the Lumineers, the band that may have started that whole ho! hey! thing a few years ago, tell pretty good stories in their songs. i had heard Cleopatra and was confused about what the song was about until I heard this.
you may ask yourself
Sunday, October 27. Mingo County, West Virginia.
We’re visiting my brother-in-law, Paul, at the nursing home on top of the mountain in Williamson. It’s a typical visit. We bring Coca-Colas and 7-Ups. Not Pepsi. Not Sprite. Coca-Colas and 7-Ups. We drop them off at the dining hall where a local gospel group is beginning to play. Two men, two women. An acoustic guitar wired to a little Fender amp. They sing loudly, all feeling, no nuance. Gathered around are the usual assortment of residents in wheelchairs.
Paul is there but he has no interest in staying so we go back to his room to visit a little. After a while, it’s time to leave. We hear the music from the dining hall so we go back to listen for a bit.
The music is as country gospel as you can get, full of twang and southern West Virginia. They’re singing a song I’ve never heard.
Of course not like the video I just linked, but it’s the same song.
And there’s a lady lying horizontal in a wheelchair, clutching her sippy cup, her eyes closed. And she’s singing along.
In the back is another lady mouthing the words.
Gertrude, who says she’s ready to be with the Lord, is singing too.
John Michael looks to be in his thirties. He wheels up and asks for a microphone and one of the ladies obliges. John Michael sings his heart out, even if his voice is not what he wants it to be.
It’s hard not to be touched.
We finally leave and make our usual stop at Mickey D’s for coffee for the long ride home. Over the sound system, the Talking Heads song, Once in a Lifetime, is playing.
I remember the quirky alternative-rock song from so many years ago and it gets stuck in my head. I can’t remember all the words and when I get home I find it and play it.
you may ask yourself,
well, how did i get here?
David Byrne’s philosophical musings about how life blazes by and here we are. How did we get here?
Most folks in the nursing home are probably not prone to introspection, but there a few. I’ve talked with a veteran with no legs and he may ask himself.
Larry has family issues that haunt him. He may ask himself.
Our friend Peggy would. My God, what have I done? Not a question she would ask in vain, but a sincere pleading.
And so it goes.
Same as it ever was.
I just finished watching a 16-hour documentary, Ken Burns’ Country Music.
I didn’t want it to end.
My music of choice has been rock and roll. Rhythm and blues. Funk. Soul. Classical. Americana. Roots. Never country. Almost never.
There was my Dwight Yoakam period. Guitars, Cadillacs, and Hillbilly Music. He was so country and old-school, he was hip.
Not long after that, Johnny Cash teamed up with Rick Rubin and produced American Recordings. Cash was old, the production bare, stripped down to Cash’s raspy, but still strong voice singing Nine Inch Nails and gospel and old folk songs. One of my favorite albums of all time.
I knew a little about Hank Williams. Hear that lonesome whippoorwill, he sounds too blue to fly. Williams died in Oak Hill, West Virginia.
Kathy Mattea was born just a few miles from where I was.
And somehow I knew that the music I listen to now, The Avett Brothers, Tyler Childers, Parker Milsap, has its roots in country music.
And then there’s this whole songwriting thing I’ve been tinkering with.
So when I heard about the Ken Burns film, I knew I was going to watch it from beginning to end.
And here’s the thing. Yes, it’s about music. There are beautiful voices, virtuoso instrumental performances, showmanship and charisma. But also performers who wouldn’t make the first cut in today’s made-for-tv singing competitions. Modest talent. Three chords and the truth. The truth being what it’s really all about. Triumph and joy, but more often struggle and heartbreak. Stories set to music. No achy-breaky heart. More like Roseanne Cash singing I Still Miss Someone at her father’s memorial.
If you’re a writer, you’ll find inspiration in the film. If you’re a songwriter, you should be required to watch it. It features some of the best songwriters ever.
I’m so lonesome I could cry. – Hank Williams
I’d trade all my tomorrows, for one single yesterday. – Kris Kristoferson
I’m crazy for trying, crazy for crying,
and I’m crazy for loving you. – Willie Nelson
Go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on earth is done.
Go to heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son. – Vince Gill
I think I may be the only who saw it. Every time I try to start a conversation about it, seems like no one else has watched it.
Have you? If not, you can still watch the entire film online. Click the link below.
i can’t begin to describe this video.
if you are a runner, you must watch this.
if you are an introspective person, you must watch this.
if you are awed by the forces of our natural world, you must watch this.
and if you watch this, you must watch until the very end.
I don’t dance
I can’t dance
I don’t know how to dance and never will
Things just happen
I wasn’t there to dance
At this little dinner club
Where through the old sagging glass
I watch the river flow lazy
As it always has and will forever
I’m not from here
Not that it matters
And maybe that’s why this place is special
No one knows me
No one cares
I eat alone, as always
Steak, medium well, baked potato
I don’t drink except for when I’m here
Ice cold beer
From the tap
All is well, peaceful
My other life, mistakes I’ve made, mistakes to come
Is miles upriver, coming for me
But not here yet
Most everyone is coupled up
A group of four or party of six
If I’m the object of pity or curiosity I don’t care
Because the steak is good
And the solitude comforting
In a far corner
A black man named Bob plays jazz on the piano
While a skinny white boy named Solomon blows a saxophone
Lipton’s on guitar
And Jupie lays down the beat
I know their names
But to them
I’m just a guy by the window eating a steak
Maybe not even that
And that’s how it should be
Somewhere in New York
The same scene is played out with different actors
But no better than
Right here, right now
Yes, another beer
So I don’t have to leave
Because across the room with the party of six
Sits a woman
She’s in the company of others
A man works to keep her attention
And though she is with him and smiles on cue
She’s not really with him
And she knows I know
And Bob plays slowly
And Jupie taps the high hat
And the couples can’t resist as they move to the center of the room
And embrace politely
And sway as Solomon plays
And Savannah dances too
Though that’s not her name
But it should be because it’s a beautiful name
They dance as two
Who will never be one
She knows I’m watching
And I smile
And she smiles and we both sense the same thing
And we both know
That possibilities are impossible
And the song ends
And most sit
As the tempo changes and dancing is less forgiving
They, like me
My glass is empty
My time is done
And I look to her table and she’s not there
And as I lay my napkin beside my plate
I look once more
I see her as I walk across the room
Walking toward me
And we meet in the center of the room, the music daring us
And I accept the dare
And reach for her hand
Her right hand in my left
My hand on her waist
And we move slowly to the beat, and she is smiling
And I don’t know what I’m doing
But it feels right
I pull her hand in front of us
And her momentum
Sends her into a soft twirl, her hair flying toward me
And as she comes back, I pull her close
And I kiss her
And behind me I hear gasps
From the table of six and I can imagine their looks
Though I’ll never know
Because hers is all that matters
The music plays
But I release her soft hands
And I won’t even turn to look as I walk away
And I know I’ll never go back
As Solomon plays
copyright 2019, joseph e bird
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events or locales is entirely coincidental.