I Have Memorized This Ceiling
I avoid his opaque eyes,
knowing too well what they disguise,
but I know these walls and ceiling well.
They have so many tales to tell.
When reality is not sufficient,
four walls can become omniscient—
opening to all the world,
as a thousand stories come unfurled.
Each timber’s knot and each plank’s burl,
each water stain—each mark and whirl
has an adventure kept inside.
It is a fast horse that I ride
speeding my self, so tightly curled,
out of this prison, into the world.
A woman’s silhouette—so grand
has been sketched out by water’s hand.
Wood its canvas, it paints her free,
her story known by none but me.
The little dog—her friend and guide
when planks were cut, was found inside
that living tree, first cut, then milled
that my mind’s meanderings have filled
with all the stories that would be mine,
born in another place and time.
Those held prisoner by caste
or by our sex, held sure and fast—
imprisoned by life’s machinations,
escape in our imaginations.
Thus it is that fantasy
is the thing that sets us free.
The lock that holds us, rope that binds
cannot corral our restless minds.
I’ve memorized these walls, this ceiling.
Imbued them with all of the feeling
lacking elsewhere in my life.
They are my husband. I am their wife.
Those water stains are flowers placed
to relieve sorrows I have faced.
Those hollow eyes stretched wide in terror,
the tree cannot have grown in error.
They are messages to me
that somewhere, something watches me.
They record and they comfort one
who, worn out when day is done,
spreads out her body on her cape
and looks up for her day’s escape.
A private world for my invention,
far from my life’s cruel convention.
I’d tell the whole world if I could,
these stories nature has etched in wood,
The prompt today was “opaque.”
I once lived in a house built entirely of wood: walls, floors, ceilings, countertops, even the shower was wood. There were thousands of images hidden in the planks and although our lives were busy ones, in times of reflection, or before falling asleep or when waking up, some of the images came to be so familiar. The main character in this poem is not me, but another type of woman I think a lot about lately––one living in a society repressive toward women or limited in her freedom by other factors such as caste, race or circumstance. However limited our worlds, we must make of them what we can, and in this case, I am imagining such a woman in that room of a thousand stories, hoping she can derive what freedom there is to find from imagining herself within those stories.