It also means being closer to the kids,
longer than perhaps at any other time of year.
Our daughter Florence who graciously edits
Air Cargo News FlyingTypers, making this journal a more intelligent read,
is in real life a poet.
When she was barely 18, Flossie was named
among the best poets in America by Scholastic Magazine- (distributed to
grade schools across USA each week—they also own the Harry Potter
In any case, just out of college Scholastic
gave Flossie her first job overseeing the same awards each year that she
had won in 1998.
Flossie won for writing about her brother
Geoffrey Arend II, her brother who now is the actor featured this summer
in the box office movie hit “500 Days of Summer”.
But when Geoff was little (and he was not
six foot four and in great physical health) he was sickly and had trouble
Flossie captured this and became famous
for putting a part of her life experience, while growing up, to poetry.
Then she moved into adulthood, graduated
from college and went to work just as it happens everywhere else.
Recently she began writing again.
A picture came to her attention so she wrote
So as we close the first week of August
2009 we take a summer break.
Later you might want to comment or read
more Flossie at http://cursivecollective.wordpress.com/tag/flossie/
Maybe we can encourage her to write a lyric
about air cargo.
Perhaps a tome with a title like “The
Ballet of the Forklift Trucks,” is what I’m thinking.
Of The Four Elements
She is always the first to arrive. This
does not bother her; it is a simple fact. The cups are arranged neither
haphazardly nor precisely, but rather sit, empty in their saucers, awaiting
the preferred placement of those to whom they will serve. Four perfect,
white cups cradled in four white saucers; they gleam, dazzling in the
sunlight. Positioning her own cup directly in front of her, she runs her
hands over the smooth corrugations in the bole, feeling the warmth of
the wood under the sun. The tree has many hundreds of years within it;
she reads the lines like Braille, closing her eyes. A ring – A family
of robins stains the branches like droplets of blood; they lay eggs, grow
old; their babies stretch wings, leave; they curl in empty nests and die.
A different ring – the river floods, the ground rumbles under hard
hooves, soft paws; branches break and are lost in the rising water; the
musky, mottled scent of animals passes as they flee to the mountains.
She doesn’t move too far outward. There was a time when she would
have, but that ache is old and painful, and unnecessary now. She opens
her eyes and sighs contentedly; the cups are set; she is happy to have
never chipped or cracked a single piece in transit. As if she could.
Atla is second to arrive. She pulls herself
clean of the roaring river and steps onto the heated sand. This takes
special effort and always leaves her feeling desperate and drained, melancholy
and aching with loss. Fortunately, the feeling passes quickly. The flapping
tail atop her dark head cheerlessly prods her towards the giant bole.
She shields her eyes from the sun and looks to the bole; a lone figure
with a long back and straight, flaxen hair sits motionless. Beyond her
lies a dark forest and beyond that, a great mountain with its head poking
the clouds. The fish on Atla’s head smacks open its mouth as if
to encourage her; the weight of its body is an assurance. She kneels before
the river and runs a hand through the flowing water, which seems to part
at her touch, then envelopes her hand lovingly. A smile trickles through
her face, lifting her features, and she removes her hand and turns to
face the hill. The figure has not moved and remains sitting before the
bole. Atla walks steadily up the hill; her feet lost within the waves
of her black, serpentine skirts gives her the appearance of driftwood
as it rides a gentle current. Behind her a trail of slick, wet grass leads
the way back to the river.
“Hello, Terra.” Atla lightly
touches her sister’s golden shoulder and takes the seat beside her.
Her skirts lap softly against the bole, even as she is still.
“Hello, Sister. And what of today?”
At the sound of Terra’s voice the creature that sits astride her
head lets a shiver loose through its body, the bushy tail like dandelion
seeds shifting in the wind. It was resting until now, curled at her crown.
From a distance, its tawny body seemed to Atla like a bun in her sister’s
hair. It chitters nervously, its tiny front paws pensively preening. There
has been silence for so long.
“Today was tepid. I had a moment of
sheer sadness, but this did not last.” Terra nods her head in assent,
her eyes drifting towards the mountains.
“Ilma is here,” she whispers
softly. Both heads turn to the figure as it drifts down over the mountains.
At first glance it seems that an errant cloud has moved astray of the
cumulus flock, which clusters around the shepherding mountain as if corralled
by an unseen hound. The runaway cloud takes form and color. A small bird
is popping atop the light and delicate head of a small, graceful girl.
She is attenuate and diaphanous against the dark, cross-hatched forest,
and as she lands before the bole the leaves and slightest branches on
the trees around her quiver, the grass swaying like drunken dancers at
“Hello, Sisters!” she sings
aloud gaily. She runs and it is as if wings stretch out for miles on either
side of her, the grass bending in her wake. “I have brought the
Ewer!” She is slighter than her sisters. Her skin is so pale as
to almost seem silver – the color of snow under the pregnant moon
– although not in a way that might denote illness. Ilma glows. She
sits opposite Atla, who regards her with half-lidded eyes. The bird above
Ilma is pacing the small expanse of her snowy head, chirping in mimicry
to her speech. Ilma produces a slender, silver ewer from the folds of
her dress and places it carefully. It shimmers and vacillates on the table,
as if it were occupying space somewhere else as well as on the bole. The
pursed spout of the ewer is delicate above the thin neck and handle, which
curves over its profile like a lock of fine, newborn hair. A symbol is
carved into its surface of a crescent over a circle, balancing above a
“I am here; we may begin.” A
fourth girl quickly takes the remaining seat between Ilma and Terra and
places a nest upon the bole. The action is so fluid, so fast, as to deny
any gradational movement. It happens as a flash; one moment there was
an abscess in the crescent of girls; now there is none.
“Welcome, Pele,” Terra rumbles.
Her voice sends pebbles skittering obliquely down the distant mountainside.
Pele nods her acknowledgment to each of the girls in turn. A small stag
sits with legs folded atop her head and bows its antlers in unison with
her. They do not seem surprised or moved by her sudden appearance. The
abrupt attendance, paired with the pale pink rosiness of her cheeks, would
seem to accompany a matched heaviness of breath, or veil of perspiration
over Pele’s soft skin. This is not the case. She has arrived in
perfect stillness, a jag of lightning frozen against an obsidian sky.
Pele’s hair glows red under the brilliant sun.
“I see why we have gathered, Sister
Pele,” Terra murmurs, gesturing to the nest. It sits in the center
of the bole. Three small babies lie nestled inside a cradle of twisted
twigs, their eyes fluttering in sleep. They are smaller than human infants,
no larger than sparrows. Directly the nest was placed upon the bole, all
four girls have eyed it; Terra, a little warily.
“Yes, Sister Terra. It is of the utmost
importance. But first… Atla?” Pele lifts the ewer and passes
it to her sister. Atla accepts it with both hands and closes her eyes.
All of the girls bow their heads as the symbol on the ewer begins to glow
blue; there is a sound of a brook-water running over stones; the carp
on Atla’s head tilts forward, its mouth opening. A cool, clear liquid
falls from its lips like water over a cliff, misting as it pours into
the ewer. It hits the silver with a hollow tinkle, a seraphic sound that
echoes into the air.
Atla passes the ewer back to Pele as the
carp closes its mouth. The stag on Pele’s head rises and stamps
its hooves. Pele closes her eyes and bows her head to the ewer. Her hair
falls forward, cloaking the ewer in a crimson shower. The stag lowers
its neck and snorts, its nostrils flaring around puffs of smoke that billow
into the ewer. She lifts her head and passes the ewer to Terra as the
stag resumes its folded position on her head. The ewer bubbles and steams
in front of Terra.
Terra is quiet compared to the lively rodent
dancing on her head. It has skittered and scampered about during the whole
procession in anticipation of this act. As the ewer is passed to Terra,
it leans forward expectantly, its front paws folding and unfolding, its
tail flickering like a furry whip. Terra closes her eyes as the rodent
opens its front paws outward. Something crushed and fragrant cascades
from its tiny hands into the ewer, an earthy, scented mixture of herbs
and spices. It prances back to the crown of her head as Terra opens her
eyes and pushes the ewer towards Ilma.
Ilma places her hands gently around the
ewer and closes her eyes. The bird on her head chirps and hops forward,
fluffs its wings, fills its red breast with air and begins to sing. As
it sings, it flaps its wings towards the ewer, pushing the steam into
the open air. Ilma smiles as she opens her eyes and lifts the ewer, posing
it above the bole.
“It is ready,” she announces,
and begins to pour each girl a cup. By now the babies have awakened. One
sits with hands fisted and mouth blowing bubbles; the next is kicking
its legs against the nest impatiently; the third is content just to look
from girl to girl, as if it knows what will be said.
“Drink deep,” utters Pele. She
takes a long sip and nods to Ilma for more. “This is a matter of
“There haven’t been any in so
long,” Ilma whispers, peering at the nest as she fills her sister’s
cup. “This is quite exciting!” The bird above Ilma is aloft
“Not since us, Sister,” Atla
says, smelling her cup. There is a lilt to her voice, a deep sinking at
the end of what she has said. “This brew may not be strong enough
“It is the strongest, Atla. There
is none stronger.” Terra’s voice resounds like an echo in
a cavern. The sisters can feel it rumbling the earth under their feet.
Her rodent is chittering wildly.
“I was not implying ineptitude, Terra.”
Atla grumbles, water bubbling from a geyser.
“We should be rid of them,”
Pele bristles. Her eyes smoulder and sheath a deeper conflagration than
she can safely allow. Terra rises from the table.
“That is not our way. Even if it were,
I would not allow it.”
“Who are you, Terra Sister, to allow
me anything?” Pele counters, rising from the table to meet her sister.
Her buck has bowed its neck and is shaking its antlers wildly. “They
were left. If I had not happened upon them… ” Pele pauses,
the heat of her anger staining her face, the color rivaling her burning
hair. “It would be an act not entirely unknown to us.”
“We have never acted, Sister,”
Terra says, her voice gentler now. “We have only allowed.”
“I say we do nothing,” Atla
offers, cutting between her sisters. “They could mean all or very
little; to me, there is meager difference.” Her fish smacks its
lips carelessly, spraying the table with water.
“Enough!” The word leaves Ilma
like a sharp turn of the wind, knocking the others into silence. “We
must do what we came to do, and drink of this.” She lifts her cup
to illustrate. “We are speaking too fast and thinking too little.”
Terra nods her head in agreement as she and Pele slowly take their seats.
Atla has held her cup all the while and continues to sip slowly.
The earth stills, and suddenly the rushing
of the river ceases and falls mute, the wind abandons the trees to their
statuesque silence and all the animals on lofty crowns and deep within
the forest are quieted. It is more than silence; it is the vacuum that
follows when the skin of sound is ruptured – the nothingness that
trails a loud crack of thunder. Even the babies clutch hands and arms
noiselessly, their eyes wide as the saucers, which take their cups without
the charmed tinkle of glass meeting glass. The ewer is emptied. All of
time passes, or none of it. The sun shines strong and bright, hiding Time
behind its unchangingface.
“I… still don’t know.”
Terra hangs her head dejectedly as her rodent curls itself up on her crown.
“This has never happened; I have always known. Perhaps you were
right, Atla Sister.”
“No, Sister. Nothing comes to me,
either. Perhaps it was my liquid; perhaps it was not fresh.” Atla’s
fish laps softly at her charcoal hair and turns its tail to the bole.
“Or my heat,” chimes Pele, “too
hot, or not enough.” Her stag has folded itself and closed its eyes
in resting.The skin of her cheeks has resumed the hazy coral color of
morning clouds; the fight, gone.
“Sisters, we have all done nothing
differently. This is at the fault of no one.” Ilma takes her sisters’
hands one by one and squeezes them tightly. As they each look to the babies,
Ilma drops their hands.
“We can’t be rid of them; I
know this,” Pele whispers.
“We can’t leave them. We must
do something,” Atla adds. Her fingers are twisting around a lock
of midnight hair. A drop of water falls from the strand and hits the bole.
“Perhaps they are meant to replace
us,” Terra whispers. The girls all look to her, fear creeping into
their faces. Ilma’s bird begins steadily chirping, like a melodic
“No,” Ilma says, “There
were none before us, and there will be none after us.” She reaches
into the nest and lifts one of the babies, cupping it in one hand. The
baby is quite small and fits snugly in her palm. Her sisters inhale sharply,
holding their breaths in anticipation. Ilma strokes the baby’s belly
with one finger; it giggles and pushes at her with one hand, smiling a
toothless grin. Ilma laughs and holds it up to them. Her eyes, a cloudless
blue, have sharpened to colorless ice.
“Don’t you see, Sisters? We
are the four, and always will be.” She holds the baby to her face
and presses her forehead to its belly; it places its hands to her skin
and gurgles with satisfaction. Her sisters look at the remaining two babies,
as if the answer were written on their faces, or hidden in their eyes.
Atla holds the leg of the baby who likes to kick, and looks up at Ilma.
“What is it Ilma? What do you see?”
Ilma lifts a baby and places it in Terra’s hands, which cup together
to hold it. Terra looks down at the infant, a smile spreading over her
face like the sun as it reveals itself to the earth. The warmth spreads
over the baby as it giggles and reaches for her.
“Oh, Ilma. I see,” she whispers,
and hands the child to Pele who, after only a moment, has started to smile
and coo, her eyes blazing with an orange fire.
“What is it, Sisters? Please, I don’t-”
Before she can finish, Terra has lifted and placed the last child in Atla’s
hands, and Atla grows silent, the blue of her eyes pooling like still
waters. The baby beneath her is softly patting her palm with its left
hand in a soporific rhythm. She looks to Ilma, who is smiling beatifically.
“My sisters, these are our sisters…
and they are new.”