Monday, June 30, 2008



I asked the man
who stood beside the child
and held her hand,
what he called her.

Both of them were muffled
in canvas clothing;
shapeless clothing worn
to soft and muted earth tones.

He seemed to be wearing
what had been
a military uniform;
one fit to blend him
into a summer forest
in a temperate zone.

And temperate
and mild
he had become,
it seemed to me,
even as the uniform
he wore
had lost its strength
of color,
so that he now
stood out
like a pillar
in this winter forest,
among these bare trees.

I wondered if
there had been something
of that mildness
in him
all along,
even in the days
of carrying a rifle
up and down the mountains.

“I call her,
Found along the long march home,
with winter in her eyes,”
he answered.

Somehow I knew
that neither of them
sensed a threat
in me.
I knelt
and took the girl’s hand,
her left hand,
and held it between mine.
Her hand was cold,
so cold!

“Do you want to go home?” I asked her.

She was small,
barely half his size,
if that.
She was bundled
in scraps of canvas
rudely sewn together
with bits of string
and soft wire.
She wore a rope,
worn and silky,
as a tie around her waist.
A hat
made of bird wings
and moss
covered her head
and trailed down her neck.

I looked into her eyes
and immediately wished
I had not.
I have never seen such eyes!
The crystal clear cornea
was a liquid skin
stretched across a place
where weight meant
time meant nothing;
and the something
that was there
was as far away
as the moon.
In her eyes floated everything –
earth, moon, trees,
even this man beside her,
and me.

She turned her head
to look at her friend.
As she shifted her gaze,
snow flurries rose
from the bottoms
of her eyes
the same way they do
inside a glass sphere
containing a winter scene.
I could see
the snow drifting
in liquid suspension
and I wondered if perhaps
I had stumbled upon
the spirit of winter.

“Sweetheart,” I said to her
and she shifted her eyes
back to me.
“Are you cold?”

She shook her head.

“Are you warm?”

Again she shook her head.

I released her hand
and it rested
in the air
for a moment
before she raised it
to the man
who had named her,

There was a spot of color
in her palm
and he cradled her hand
in his own
and began to rub
the color in.
A blush of rose appeared
and spread to her limbs,
her face,
her cheeks
and the silent woods
with the sound
of a beating heart
coming back to life.
Her tears came then
and spilled from her eyes,
instead of into them.
I was mesmerized.
I don’t know how long
he rubbed that spot
of color in her palm,
or how long she wept.

The man thanked me
and said
he would take her home
She was sobbing
and clutching at his coat.
He lifted her
into his arms
and she threw hers
around his neck.
Her tears darkened the collar
of his old, worn overcoat.

He adjusted her weight
and as he was turning
to go back up the mountain
in search
of the road home,
he saw me staring
at my hand
in disbelief.

“Don’t worry,” he said.
“It’s a gift.”

Rick Mobbs 2008

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