#15, April 8, 2022

this month's prompts

A note from the editors:

 

We’re shaking things up a little this month, publishing TWO prompts|responses rather than one. It is always a joy to read and listen to what we are sent and we are consistently inspired by the variety of submissions we receive in response to the same prompt.

We hope you enjoy these prompts as much as we do and are inspired to create and send us a music|sound response!

My Mistake, I'd Imagined God's Voice as Tender

When, in fact, it is the slicing

of a mountain with a bread

 

knife. Slow & steady, it wobbles

through the world, searing

 

all things, his teeth dragging

the words across the ear's

 

inner rooms until it becomes

a blood-spring. Do you weep?

 

Have you been seized

by holiness, your conscience

 

splintered, crackling in the ore

of his cadence? I promise you,

 

revelation is a fist

to the eye, a hiss

 

of volcano gushing

out his mouth.

 

His fingers plucking my ribs

like strings, yield worship out of me.

 

O, to be a tambourine

awaiting the sway of his wrists.

 

Let me be consumed, consummated.

If God's voice is a dart,

 

may I be the bull's-eye —

punctured & anchored,

 

recipient of mystery.

echoes from a tender ritual

In distant islands and forests, where there are things still held to be sacred, nothing—and nobody, vanishes forever. They exist only elsewhere close by, at the other side of a woven wall. Hiding in plain sight.

About two hundred and fifty feet from Esther Llanes’s backyard, over the border to the town of Antik, stood the ruins of an old church whose name at present nobody knew or remembered. Some call it the Santa Clara church, after Clare of Assisi, patron saint of people with eye diseases, goldsmiths, and extrasensory perception, among other things—bicycle messengers, television, and fair weather. But older residents of Antik say it is only for the people of Santa Lucia to lay claim to the church. Both saints, Lucia and Clara, were related to the eye. Neither of the two towns knew for certain what the church’s true name was. It seemed they wanted it that way.

One bright day, Esther, a child aged eight, stood between the border of these two towns, on the path that led to a smaller building within what was once the church compound. She took great care to not slip over the mossy stepping stones and approached the building. Over the door in letters finely carved into the limestone was written Santo Ovidio. A minor chapel dedicated to the patron saint of ears. The chapel’s outer walls were mottled with moss and lichen. Little Esther, gifted with a great eye, looked through the illusion in gray and green, and saw a pair of ears carved on the sides of the doorway. With impulsive curiosity, she reached up and touched one ear. She ran her fingers on the detailed grooves. It reminded her of the lines on the vinyl records that sat in her grandfather’s bedroom, gathering dust and detritus. Hidden music. She went through.

A broken roof, a broken wall, a faded mural of passions, an empty altar, and a single pew. On the bare floor of broken tile and earth were holes. Some of them were empty, some had dried grass and bits of paper inserted. It would be years until Esther understood what she had felt that day, standing in the ruins, sensing the echoes of a tender ritual. Years before she learned of what the ritual was. Isolation and emptiness that drove the people of the two towns to wish what they had wished for. What she felt was certain was the feeling of wanting to participate in this ritual. To belong to something beyond her. To soothe her own sadness and desperation.

 

Wind blew on that sunny day. A bright and cool day that follows a night of deep and dark rain. The shadow of leaves danced on the floor and walls. Esther crouched and touched the holes in the ground but left the dried grass and bits of paper alone. She dared not know. She dug one finger into the cold and soft ground to make a hole for herself and prepared to whisper her wish. A flash of golden light issued through the jungle and she thought she heard the tolling of a bell…

 

Esther opened her eyes. It was raining. She was laying on the couch, and held up her hands. A dream. A deep memory that was emerging from a dream. Outside her apartment window, the city was covered in heavy rain clouds. Buildings were bare, gray outlines. She stood up and went to her door. Mail had arrived. One of them was a postcard, unsigned but addressed from her hometown of Santa Lucia. “Come home, I am here” was written on it. Her missing sister’s handwriting. Esther stood by the door motionless. After all this time. Esther had looked and looked when she should have been listening. Oh, Flora.

In her mind, she saw herself as a girl, lying on the ground in the ruins, watching the shadows dance. What had she truly wished for that day? The night before, Flora had disappeared. Hid in plain sight, Esther believed. She closed her eyes and listened, pressed the postcard to her chest and sighed, yes.