Their Pasture


He tilts his head up towards the sun, looking through the trees as light filters through their branches. The sheep looks around the pasture, luscious and glowing golden. He is swaying in the quiet breeze that brushes past him in a gentle embrace.

He remembers many years ago, when the hurricane came through and destroyed this place. One of his back legs broke when a tree slammed against his side. It is still supported by a stick to prevent him from wobbling around, though if that is the worst thing he faced, he is lucky; many of the other sheep from the herd did not survive. 

When the hurricane finished, the farmer cut the coats loose from many of the dead sheep and wrapped the bloodied fur around the smallest in the herd, to help keep them warm. 

The sleep blinks, looking over the rolling meadow. He is the last one left with red-dyed fur, from where the blood soaked into his skin and saturated his coat with the stink of death.

Maybe when the summer comes and spring has worn itself thin, the farmer will finally cut the top, dyed layer of his coat loose. 

He looks up towards the farmhouse at the top of the hill. It’s quieter now since the young boy moved out, but, still, the farmer and his wife remain, overlooking the endless acres of land, making them a safe home for the sheep of their meadow, though they are all bred for food and for wool.

Tomorrow, the farmer could see the sheep’s age, his build, his meat and decide, “That sheep would make a good meal.”

But, for now, if only now, he looks through the trees, breathing with the beautiful slumber of the meadow, watching as an older woman lumbers towards the pasture, her limbs moving slower with her age.

The sheep approaches at the sight of the farmer’s wife. Faintly, he remembers the time when she fed him an apple, when she groomed him even though her husband was scared of looking at him and his diseased fur, which reminded almost everyone that a sacrifice, however unintentional, can perpetuate the world.

The woman’s face contorts happily at the sheep’s approach. She recognizes him and bends down to brush the fur behind his ears.

Though he will not understand it, she speaks to him, saying, “You’re special, do you know that?”

The sheep melts under the scratches she gives him. The farmer’s wife smiles, joy rushing through her as she feels the sheep’s pelt underhand. 

She continues, “I have wondered many times about what happened to you. Why you were so young when you were stained with this blood.” She brushes her hand along the sheep’s back. He shivers under the gentle fingers moving down his spine. “I like to think it is because we are only here now. Tomorrow isn’t known before it happens to us. So, for now, we just are. Bloody or not, we are here, doing what we can.”

She looks down at the sheep, who has fallen to the ground. He sits in the warmth of the sun. The farmer’s wife joins him, laughing as she looks into his face. “Ah, but why am I telling this to you? You are a sheep. You don’t have the words to understand; though I imagine you already know this. You have lived it.”

The sheep looks up at her. He watches as her hand presses itself against his head, scratching all of the spots where aches have started to form, as if she knows that no other sheep will care for him the way they care for each other. Normally, he is an outcast; the herd sees his bloodied pelt and wonders, who has died for him to get here? And then they run, not wanting to be another sacrifice.

But that does not matter. For, now, the old woman and the sheep sit together, pressing against each other, taking part in the beautiful allure of the pasture. Under the warmth of the spring sun, the farmer’s wife cleans the sheep’s fur, pulling out all of the annoying burrs and removing the ancient, matted clumps of blood that have lingered on his coat for too long.

Now, they breathe with the breeze of the world, which brushes over grasses, swaying as the sun moves across the sky and as the moon pushes and pulls at the waves of the nearby pond, creating chaos in the otherwise perpetual stillness. Though it will not be their world forever, for now, they act like everything on this earth belongs to them. 

When tomorrow morning comes and the farmer decides that the sheep will make a good meal, it will be okay. For, soon, the leftovers of his carcass will feed the worms. Flowers will grow through his bones. And the old woman will remember, even if only for another day longer, that he existed, and his fur was soft despite it all. 


Poetry and photography by Hazel J. Hall.

LOVE,


If you must ever go,
enter my life gently. Transcendant

forever.
Crossing walls,
wishing they weren’t real.
Weren’t felt by us.

Our friendship.
Sometimes I wish
I didn’t know.
If it wasn’t ours,
it could never end;
never begin.
Beautiful, while fleeting
but
terrifying while uninsured.

Have I graced you
as you have me?
The delicate love of your soul.
Has it ever existed before?

Between us, I can guarantee
little, but I promise
this love is authentically mine.
So if you must ever come,
go gently. Like the waves.

Always,


Poetry and photography by Hazel J. Hall.

at dawn


we sit on     the docks 
waves pushing     and pulling 
     against the pier 
          coming and going 
     as we lose all our days 
tomorrows and     todays 
years     and years  
     lead us here, 
          all testament to     our loneliness craze.

Poetry and photography by Hazel J. Hall.

The Brown-headed Cowbird


A female brown-headed cowbird
will lay her eggs in another nest,
hoping they will be taken care of.


Not enough food to go around,
one too many screaming,
screeching heads.
Of young nestling beaks,
still opening wide,
never satisfied.

The mother bluebird hunts twice as much,
twice as hard. She is always tired
when she comes home to her babies,
one of which is different than all the rest.
But even with its black and brown feathers,
she sees the cowbird baby as her own.

She will feed the cowbird,
though it means two of her baby blues
will never fledge.

Though there are no words to say it,
the exhausion in her limbs will scream,
I wish I didn’t love you.


Poetry and photography by Hazel J. Hall.

Some Dancing Birds


Jungle mist clinging
to the edge of the woods.
Of brightly colored flowers and feathers
amongst the chaos
of the trees.

Birds hoping to survive for their purpose
of having the most wonderful,
well-kept downy.
Perfection is an expectation,

though an unknown concept to the bird,
who knows each belief or instinct
or natural inclination will mean nothing
tomorrow, when the sun has come and gone.

Some dancing birds
will dance for all their days.

It is a wonder that wings have evolved four times now;
individual aspirations once.


Poetry and photography by Hazel J. Hall.

Sixty Minutes Mortal


The goddess played with the elixir in her hands, watching as the liquid sloshed back and forth against the glass walls of the bottle. The golden glowing potion called her name. Temptation was always her most dangerous game but, oh, she would be lying if she said it wasn’t the most fun.

A cork closed the bottle. That was the only thing between her and a sip, just a sip of this little concoction. 

A strange mercenary had dropped it by her door, tying a knot to the top with twine. She read the paper message again, studying the inscription closely.

Sixty minutes of knowing time’s unspoken promise.

She scoffed at it, putting the bottle down against her table as she stood, looking from the window of her great observatory, which existed in the bridge between the earth and the stars. The goddess lived within the clouds, above the birds, above everything but the cosmos. It was greater still.

The goddess turned back to the glass bottle upon her desk, staring into the liquid. 

Sixty minutes of mortality: that’s what it promised. But why? 

The bottle grabbed hold of her, attaching itself to her skin with an electrical power even she did not know. 

It was mesmerizing; she could not pull away from the feel of the liquid against her skin. There was warmth against her fingers, so warm that all else was cold. And then there was the butterfly in her stomach. If she drank the liquid could she let it go? Free?

She blinked, shaking herself away from the potion. She once more let the bottle clink against her table. No matter how hard she wanted to drink it, she would wait. She just needed to think.

The goddess moved to her window, looking over her wonderful world. She ruled over all of it but she rarely meddled. Those people down below shaped their own destiny. She only interfered when necessary. When a voice called for her that not even she could ignore.

In the grand scheme of forever she could rarely hear the speech of those so short-lived. She rarely cared to listen. Those humans all wanted the same thing: Please, just let me have another moment longer! Not yet, not yet! I’m not ready yet.

To which she would always laugh. No one was ever ready to go. It was mercy to go quick. If that was the worst thing (to go at all) then it must not be so bad.

She looked over the potion once more, watching the elixir as it swirled within the confines of the bottle. Sixty minutes of mortality? She drew closer to it, letting her fingers brush against the warm glass. Warm, warmer than the fire of her heart, warm like corporal blood. 

Immortals rarely ever know of such simple things as warmth. Because they know, in the grand scheme of their eternity, that something else will surely be warmer still. That this isn’t the highest point, but one point happening all at once, everything being simply as it was destined to be.

Her hand clasped around the bottle. The cork felt strange beneath the skin of her fingers, rough and calloused. She pulled back, the cork popping out, removing its seal around the glass. Gas like fog swirled from the golden potion, flowing into the air and wafting around the goddess. She drew in a deep breath, accepting the wonderful smell of honeysuckle and roses. She smiled, drawing the concoction closer to her mouth. But then it hit her: the air grew sour, smoke spilling from the lip of the bottle and into her face. She coughed, consumed by the scent of gunpowder and mustard gas.

The goddess retched, stumbling to her window and struggling to draw in the fresh air of the clouds. But, even in its magnificence, the galaxy was not as beautiful as the aroma of flowers that had hit her, flowers surely from another dimension because she had never known anything so sweet.

The bottle continued to glow, shooting out light from the gaps beneath her fingers, which tightly clutched the glass. She was scared of letting go.

She drew the potion up once more. This time it smelled of lavender and mist, clinging to the meadow. Even the horrible scent of rotting flesh and decaying plants could not sway her as she began to drink, letting the elixir slide down her throat. With each sip the potion grew thicker and thicker, solidifying in her gullet until the bottle was finally empty.

The glass fell to the ground, slipping from her hand as she fell back, landing against the wall of her observatory. All of the weight in the universe came down upon her at once. So this was gravity, so this was being human! She was going to die.

Pain ripped through her chest, vehement and insistent, rolling as waves hit the beach of the ocean, controlling her like a puppet being thrown around by a mistreating hand. Her eyes watered as wind whipped against the side of her tower, roaring against her face and leaving her skin raw.

She staggered into the safety of her observatory, breathless as she struggled to start a fire. Her bones! She felt cold in her bones, shaking so deep that her heart should have stopped. 

She lit the fire, letting the warmth––more warm than anything ever before––wash over her. Even before the brilliant burning embers, she wondered to herself why any person would put up with this, how fate could possibly be so cruel. Did those humans wake up every moment truly not knowing the next? And still they were kind?

The tongues of flame cried within the fire, writhing before her as she stared into the depths of the logs, sizzling and dying. Sixty minutes had never felt so long.

Sixty minutes. She blinked, wondering for a moment. If she were to throw herself from the balcony, would she wake up at the end of the sixty minutes a goddess once more? Then she looked away from the flames, too embarrassed to meet the eyes that stared back at her. Did she even want to know?

Struggling to her feet, she stood, unable to look into the fire as she drew in a deep breath. She walked towards the balcony, blown and pushed around by the powerful wind which had once been her friend.

Her fingers met with the railings of her balcony. The humans had installed them when she had, many millennia ago, ordered them to build her a tower that reached into the stars. She had never known why they felt the need for such embellishments. But then she felt the brass beneath her fingers and saw the universe and all existence flashing before her eyes. She was alive! So this was what it was like to be human.

She drew in a deep breath, telling herself that maybe it was her turn to understand. She pulled herself onto the top of the railing, balancing on top of it. 

That’s a long way to fall, she whispered to the wind, watching the world beneath her. She could imagine it rising up to crush her, breaking her spine in one blow. And what then?

Even just the cold metal beneath her fingers brought her pain. It stabbed through her body as she struggled to hold tight to the bar. Was she ready to let go? She looked away from the ground and into the stars. How would she know when she was finally ready?

The wind pushed and pulled at her. The goddess breathed with it. Finally, she closed her eyes, letting the moment of the universe take her as it would like. Her grip loosened and she began to fall, plummeting through the sky. The fierce, wildness of the breeze screamed in her ears and cut through her body, threatening to rip her apart then and there. Everything was cold and then it was not.

She made contact, slamming into the earth––all of her bones breaking at once. She blinked, her vision dizzying as she stared up at her tower from the bottom, feeling nothing besides the warm blood pooling around her figure. She felt her first tear slipping down her face, racing to meet the earth. It collided with the ground. Died there.


Writing and photography by Hazel J. Hall.
Previously published by Quail Bell Magazine.

In Our Age


Content warning: this poem was written about my experiences at school with threats of danger made by other students against other students. It might be upsetting/triggering to others who have similar experiences or know someone who has had similar experiences. Please read carefully. Thank you, and please continue to stay safe.


I
The sound of shoes hitting hard,
polished floors amongst
the chaos to escape
the drone of
the alarm of
the school emergency system.

Over the noise,
students greet each other in the halls;
most are excited to skip third block. Only slightly
aware drills shouldn’t be happening when children
should be eating.

They all emerge in the lot before the school
without bags, without anything;
most of the juniors and seniors frustrated they’ll need to wait
another day to buy their prom tickets ($70, only sold third block).

Groups form beside student evacuation spots,
friends excited to see each other,
loving this miracle of circumstances.
Thank God someone pulled the fire alarm,
someone says outloud (it’s everyone’s favorite theory at the time).

The fire department comes and checks everything out;
a few people are disappointed they arrive
as quickly as they do.

After ten minutes of searching, they say it’s safe for students, so everyone
goes back inside. They believe everything is fine.


II
The feel of my fabric backpack beneath my fingers is odd now;
linen only partially, the rest like rubber as
I sit in my chair.

Ring! Ring! Ring!

As soon as my hand
makes contact with a pen,
a second fire alarm goes off; my teacher
groaning, a voice on the intercom saying,
Please evacuate the building immediately. Me asking,
Have I lost my mind for wondering,
Is this a joke?

Coming into the parking lot a second time is like
stepping into a zone of war. There’s sound and
chaos. A strip of land close to the building that
no one wants to touch. We all know
once could be a mistake, someone pulling the alarm
to skip a block.
Twice means that this is real;
someone (we)
could die.

My friends are whispering about it, but I don’t join in.
I watch the crowd instead,
trying to calm my fear that today is
the end of days, seeing
the heads of
the children I’ve been seeing
for my whole life. Wanting to believe
none of them would ever,

never hate us enough to dream of ending
this dream.

Yet, I am here,
looking over them
with a nightmarish imagination of
each one of them driving,
racing down the road to crush a branch
beneath their wheels, feel it break. Able
to pretend the stick was never once
known
(or had been known) by the tree.


III
When third block ends, we’re still
waiting. But I have fourth block off;
I see the opportunity to leave,
and I take it.

Every head turns towards me as I walk away, walking home.

I gaze back into the faces I’ve known,
see myself in their eyes,

and wonder,
Is that a bad thing?


IV
That night,
we learn the second alarm was a mechanical failure. We were never
going to die. (The words sound ridiculous now, anyways)

We should be relieved. But no one is.
As a collective we know
the same thing could happen tomorrow,
and we would only care less.
We have become used to being terrified.


Poetry and photography by Hazel J. Hall.

How to Fly


Extending the wings of their newfound body,
the baby cardinals open their
fledgling feathers to the breeze.

The ground,
far beneath their feet,
terrorizes their early thoughts; looking
into the void of spiraling
wilderness and wildlife. The universe is as big
as the forest.

Their parents demonstrate the flight technique,
urging their young to try
learning to fall,
and in themselves finding
the courage to fly.

The ground, even from its distance,
is known to be soft;
covered in leaves promising to catch them as
they learn to navigate
the new unknown of the world.


Poetry and photography by Hazel J. Hall.

Machinery


Previously published by After the Pause for their final issue.


My robot greets me as I enter the kitchen. It’s shaped like a dog, and it barks, too. On a platter it carries a granola bar gone two years stale. I take a bite. Cardboard flavor.

“Welcome to Day 2456,” the robot dog says in its artificial voice. 

I look down at it as it continues to speak, metal emulating human. 

It continues, “I am here with your daily reminder to not blame yourself, Dr. Winters. The accident was not your fault. You did everything you could. You are a good person with good intentions. You almost saved the world.”

I smile as its robotic arm plucks a remote from the nearby counter. It points the device at the television before facing back to me. “Do you want to watch the sunrise?”

I blink, not sure. Is there a sunrise left that’s worth seeing? Will it still shine the same? 

And what sunrise do I deserve to see, knowing what I have done and what I can’t take back? Because it was always so unhappy, this place, but more unhappy on the days they could not see the sun. 

Are they seeing it now? Are they finally home?

I mean, they’re together now, surely. Finally together in the stars. 

I manage a tear. Just one for the world I ended. There used to be something beautiful here that made us want to keep going. Now love is dead. All is suffering, held in my hands.

A sob cuts through me. One and then another. I feel the pull, the reach of the dizzying darkness trying to drag me to the center of the earth. 

My breathing comes and goes so quick. As though I am suffocating myself. Dying while my heart is transfixed by this horrifying dread that slithers around me, constricting my limbs until my blood ceases to flow and everything just… stops.  

How could the world have made me this way? Mold me into this broken form, when surely I am only the cumulative mistakes of it, the things that we forgot to burn?

Only yesterday I was in love and now I’m falling through the clouds. I’m on a collision course with the ground below. No wings. No way to slow my fall.

I plummet to the floor, writhing. Coughing, choking, crying on my saliva, struggling to breathe as my body is consumed by terror. 

“I have sensed a spike in your heart rate,” the robot’s voice cuts through the air, horrible and unnatural. It has no eyes, no thoughts. It simply is, without purpose, real purpose. We are not so different. 

Its mechanical arm reaches out, touching me on the back. I jump. 

“You are having a panic attack.”

I don’t respond as it offers another granola bar.

“Have some food. It is the same thing you eat every day but hopefully you can enjoy it since I selected it especially for you.”

I sigh, taking the granola bar in my hands. I wipe my face free from tears with my sleeve before eating. I continue to sob through the bar, choking on the tasteless oats.

“You should sleep,” it instructs when it judges me to have finished. “Things will be better tomorrow. Day 2457 will come and you will arrive with it. Tomorrow will be a new day.”

Nodding, I stand, following the robot dog to my room, too tired to argue. I look down at it, moving by my side. Aren’t we a fitting pair, nuts and bolts to our cores, programmed for purpose?

The sun has come and gone; why are we still here?

But as my hand catches against the side of the robot, I hesitate, faltering in my step. The robot falters with me. 

I blink. The robot is not gone. I am not gone.

And even in the darkness when all else fades away, it is still here.

A robotic hand reaches for mine. Cold metal and yet we bring each other warmth. 

Everything else is gone but us. Nothingness, and us, holding each other as the darkness presses in, wishing for just another moment longer. Nothing more human than that.


Writing and photography by Hazel J. Hall.

Kingdom of Earth


Now it storms, snow
falling, melting
into the cracks and
crusts of the Earth,
building a kingdom
This room will be the palace.

The mouse scurries from
the falling flakes, cold
against her nose.
She plunges into her home,
digging a throne
for her slumber.

Coming home empty-pawed,
the barn cat will curl
beneath the gentle tongues
of fire, thankful
for a new season when he
can rest. Royally.


The storm will end soon and
the sun will come.
A blackbird will sit
atop a drift of snow,
tail feathers bobbing. A ruler
of the world.


Poetry and photography by Hazel J. Hall.

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