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A Tattered Map's Tale
By Jennifer L. Bruursema
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Jennifer L. Bruursema
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBecause I believed you
He's in the desert now
He always liked the piles of boulders and the squat trees.
How they clung to the Earth but clumsily interrupted the eye's
I suspect it's where he'll stay, in this sacred space.
Cobbling together his weary parts, he'll spend decades there.
Until the bits of him all fit together, he'll fiddle tirelessly with
word, wrench, guitar string and kite string.
His sons will stop by from year to year, ask him how he's doing.
He'll tell them the same lie, but they'll drive away content.
And that's more important, he'll mutter to himself, that they're
His daughter will make him meet her at the diner 40 miles away.
She worries about him now, but her own two kids, husband and
job, well, you know.
She will, inevitably, make him smile, though, like only daddy's
eternal little girl can.
Visits from friends will be few. It won't matter.
He will visit a place at the bottom of a big stone each week.
Tuesdays, that's the quieter day in the park.
He'll lean at the base of the granite, and he'll tell that rock about
There will be no dialogue, just a man saying what it's in his chest,
in his gut.
A wind's dance off the desert floor will provoke the occasional
I expect he'll answer that wind with the four same words he
etched into his arm when he walked away from everything so
long ago ... "Because I loved her."
I held you in my hands today.
Your skin, smooth; mottled like granite, with flecks of jade,
burgundy and slate.
You were cool to the touch.
I cradled your will and courage.
I deflected others' contempt and frustration.
Your weight imprinted my grasp.
But your love bled through my palms before I could whisper,
You had a quiver full arrows.
I was a willing target.
Your aim, perfect.
I'm barely standing, bleeding you out.
Drop by drop, you're all I can see, all I can feel.
You leave my body as a rushing motion.
I am your thoughts, your love.
I'm staining the ground beneath me.
I am fading, your benevolent victim, your victory.
I miss you
I wish you'd let me say it
I know my place
I know it's a choice we both made
She has your name
I have your leftover dry-cleaning bag
Still, though, I wish you'd let me say it
He told her to take it easy ...
She quietly advised him, "Don't tell me to lighten up."
She meant it.
He smiled, nudged her knee and didn't apologize.
Listening to him patiently, she heard all about his nagging
troubles and lagging needs.
She waited, waited for him to ask anything, just something about
her, about her own miserable day at least.
He never did.
She never called him back after that.
And she thought to herself just how much freer she felt from
then on, like balloons lifting her off of weary feet.
Lighter than she'd every known.
She left her Christmas tree up.
Cause it made her nicer.
But, it was June.
And the scattered pine needles in the carpet
and the colored lights reflecting in the window
and the Bing Crosby songs no longer filled her ears.
she wished it could be Dec. 24 all over again.
More exactly, Dec. 24, 2002.
And maybe he would be in her bed,
waking her up
pulling her in
closer to his skin
closer than the sheets that sheltered them both from the ferocity
of the Michigan snowflake-laden air.
The rain reminded her of why she loved him once.
Ellie thought about this as the streaks washed down her dirty
She had no regrets, though.
Water trembled and leaked in through the screen door.
She didn't mind it.
She accepted what was.
No hopes either,
Let the river carry me, she sang.
Kenny never knew her.
He couldn't have, she was too good for his tin roof and ripped
She was, after all, made of wind and sand and ocean.
And long before his broken soles clamored onto the porch,
She was the mermaid of another man's dreams.
A bikini wax before bikram yoga class ... avoid it like
sitting on the seat in an airport bathroom,
forgetting your mother's birthday,
drinking orange juice with chapped lips,
trusting that politicians and police don't lie,
believing in the tooth fairy after you crashed your mountain
or hoping that he actually remembered your three-year
Shivers and whispers from a bow adrift
Pillow mountains quiet in the cold, windless night.
An endless terrain of sheets in the tiny hull, scanning the outline
of her soul's horizon.
An aching, scarce nightgown lies like gauze across her pale
thigh, reflecting the moon's arc of light through the sliver of a
The girl is tossing, trembling and turning to the time of the
ocean's lonely heartbeat.
All the while, her bed is signaling for his warmth, sounds are
dripping from her mouth, and the longing of his gentle kiss steams
from some far-off coast for which there are no coordinates on
Promises not kept
He said, I know it's not easy, that which I ask, that which I offer.
She pulled tight the February air into her mouth, hoping to sooth
the burning questions at the back of her throat.
His hand laced through her hair, while his voice seized her
He tugged on the roots of a thousand trees, each one sending
trembles across the land beneath her feet. He shook her
foundations and left her with little to hold.
He promised to protect the friendship. Though she hadn't known
going into that night it was something that required a promise.
She knew not the language for which he chanted, only that
she was perilously suspended, afraid she'd fall miles below the
surface of truth.
As desires fanned the fire within, her turmoil was scrawled across
his left hand and the ring upon it.
He reassured her that he would be open, that he would not give
beyond what she wanted or needed.
But for her, the agony was not what he would give, but what he
had already taken.
Matter of the heart
I bought you a coffee.
It might have mattered.
I thought you might need it.
Maybe it could have mattered.
I had hoped to brighten your day.
I wondered if it would matter.
I was looking forward to how it would make you smile.
I wasn't thinking about all the other things that matter.
But then you sat away from me, and I couldn't give it to you.
So I drank your coffee.
Cause in the end, I guess it didn't really matter.
Cold coffee tastes bitter when you're learning how to love
That Old Damn Chevy
His truck was parked outside.
She kind of figured it would be.
She half-hoped it wasn't.
He was the kind of heartbreak that her momma always warned her about. He was the one that could drink a girl's soul dry until she's got nothin but regret and a fist full of unanswered questions left to her name.
In the cold air of sunset, she stared at his bumper, wondering to herself if he could remember the smell of her hair and the touch of her skin. He probably never knew that she could map every wrinkle, every hair, every curve and slope of his body.
She was sure he didn't notice all that she put up with, like the empty nights when he'd creak their bedroom door open at some ungodly hour or he just wouldn't bother to come home at all.
Gazing at that truck, she wanted to load her daddy's old shotgun with a few rounds and blow the doors clear off the thing ... but then she thought, he's already in there with her, so what's the point?
She stood there for just one second longer, taking in every memory of his lips against her cheek, every pretty girl comment he had showered her with, and every last bit of the love she poured into him throughout the years.
And that's when she got back into her car, took a final drag off her cigarette, and aimed that rifle out her window. The young night sky cracked as that Wesson perfectly pierced his back right tire. She smiled to herself and didn't wait for a reaction. She just pointed her car down that gravel road toward the Interstate and never once looked back at her kid sister's house in the rearview mirror.
To hell with the both of them ...
A Conversation at Her Doorstep
She said, "It's just enough."
He asked, "Is it?"
And she admitted that it really wasn't.
But how do you fill a leaking glass?
I'm not sure you ever can.
It's destined to always moisten your lips,
but never to quench that thousand-year thirst in your soul.
So it may just have to be enough.
For now, tonight, with him.
Yet not forever.
Time for sleep
Voices creeping up and around
You're out there somewhere
They try to drown you out
But I know that song of yours
It's my lullaby
It's soon time for the sunrise
It's soon time for the new shift
Bartender pours me one last glass
I tip him well
He knows me better than I know myself.
I'll walk away
Find me a bench
Lay down awhile
Listen to the ripples at the shoreline coo me to slumber
I'm all yours, baby
I'm all yours and always have been
You asked me to surrender.
Because I'd like to know.
I deserve a reason.
You asked me to trust you.
I want to.
But I'm terrified of what you could do to me behind that
So I tiptoe through barbed wire to avoid you.
And I'm not even sure ...
that you feel the blood dripping down my ankles.
What will you sacrifice?
What can you live without?
In the middle
Things not said.
You are a paradox to me
of all I could ever want,
but a lot of what I don't have a place for.
When I step in,
you take my hand,
and it touches your world.
When I withdraw,
you let me wander,
never really knowing if you'd like me to stay.
I'm left only with these words on paper
and this ache in my gut,
wondering where you fall in my life.
I give only so much.
I get only so much.
Stuck painfully in the middle.
Chapter TwoNatural instincts
He told his minister.
She still didn't know.
He told his friend.
She couldn't help but put two and two together.
He told himself he shouldn't.
She, deep down inside, knew he might.
He hoped for an intrepid spirit to fill him.
She started to lose hope.
He saved and nursed it inside for months.
She wondered for years.
Then one day ...
He surprised her.
And she said yes, absolutely and completely yes.
He said to her,
"I love when the train comes."
"I really do."
"I just sit there and watch it go by."
The roughness of the miles, running through the telephone
wires, melted away.
She found peace in his words, safety in his voice, a pause in his
She could hear the rhythm and pulse of the metal on metal,
the bowing and creaking of the railroad ties,
the steel pins sighing and moaning to keep the track together,
the hissing and groaning of the engine.
She could feel his head hanging heavy, too, as he closed his eyes,
wondering if he ran fast enough, could he hop into the open car
and wake up to a new reality 1,000 lonely whistle stops away.
Just then, the red lights flashed, the gates lifted, and he saw to
the other side of the track ... the un-escapable world he was
released from, if only for a brief, inspired moment.
A body's terrain
I used to lean to make lovers bend around me
I watched them fold into this way and that
I would yield when their weight was too much for my thin back
They would, inevitably, find their way back to my doorstep
Somehow, be it personal resolve or stoned will, they would
persevere and stir my heart up with their kindness
But it was never right
Then I found someone who melded and boasted the strength
of a steel beam, whose thoughts flowed like a cup of mountain
river water in the spring
It was that someone, that you someone, who taught me that
instead of bending, I should lay still
And allow you to pick me up and take me to the bedroom
And allow you to watch me from afar, but never no, not too far
Yours is a comfortable distance and a needful heat that both
gives space and draws near
I had no idea how to love a man
Now, I just might
I want to gather up all your eyelashes ...
that fall into the bathroom sink ...
and save them for an overcast day ...
when I can wish for everything ...
and it all of it comes true.
Excerpted from A Tattered Map's Tale by Jennifer L. Bruursema Copyright © 2013 by Jennifer L. Bruursema. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Contents1. Because I believed you....................1
2. Natural instincts....................19
3. A daughter to a mother....................45
4. All things living....................59
5. It's here, it's yours....................71
6. Jet lag....................89
7. Don't look back....................101