I, Too, Fear

I, Too, Fear

By Heidi Campbell

I go in the direction I’m told.

I try, in mere minutes,

To harness a lifetime of unbothered wandering.

I go the wrong way once; 

the eyes above the mask 

tell me 

I’ve erred.

But did they tell me? 

Or is that the delusion of a plagued mind? 

 

I go in the direction I’m told.

Eyes meet.

Eyes avert.

Eyes, once so seemingly suggestive,

now fail me with their distance and fear.

“It was never the eyes,” I whisper to myself. 

 

I go in the direction I’m told.

Does the elderly man know that I’m smiling at him?

Does the young, frazzled mother see compassion in my eyes?

I grasp reality:

my eyes cannot speak.

They are helpless without their supportive sisters:

the lips.

 

I go in the direction I’m told.

I touch something without thinking.

I wonder, “Do I dare put this back?”

I, too, fear.

 

I go in the direction I’m told.

“How long can I linger?” I wonder, 

looking at the fine print.

Eyes hustle me from behind.

I feel them,

imploring me to proceed.

I look back.

What do those eyes say without lips sharing the tidings?

Are they happy eyes? Angry eyes?

Flushed skin betrays my unease.

 

I go in the direction I’m told.

Craving expression, I realize

the new exchanges inspire insecurities.

Eyes stare at eyes.

Emptiness replaces community.

 

I go in the direction I’m told.

“I want the lips back,” I murmur.

They are the trumpets announcing kings.

They are security,

community,

and kinship.

They require no interpretation.

 

I go in the direction I’m told.

I retreat to my world,  remove my mask.

With tired eyes, I sleep,

Haunted by empty eyes.

 

The Nuthatch

By Heidi Campbell

It took her ages of songs

to weave together her collection of twigs and sticks

To form the vital foundation she so needed.

She tested the strength a little each day,

Careful not to put too much weight-

fearing she might break what seemed so stable.

Finally, she felt so at ease that she bravely

Put her entire self in the nest; she trusted wholly. 

The nest held. 

It weathered storms that shook leaves from branches,

uprooted history, and overturned man’s hard work.

She was safe here. She smiled, worry faded.

The arms of the nest folded around her,

Allowing a rare leisure, even pleasure,

In her predatory world.

Years passed.

Her love for the nest never waned, 

Yet something shifted.

Perhaps the nest grew weary of perching in the same tree-

The routine too mundane,

The responsibility too great.

The branches became brittle.

Some broke with a snap,

Others only splintered, 

Yet she could not fortify or rebuild.

She did not want anything to change.

Her nest was her happiness.

She dreaded the end of her safety, her comfort.

She could not accept that the protective arms would not hold, 

That the branches were too tired.

Crack!

Half of the nest fell away. 

She couldn’t even see where it landed-

Bits scattered.

“Why have you abandoned me?” she wailed.

“What have I done? Where will I go? What will I do?”

She perched on the edge of the fragmented home,

Her head drooped.

She tried to shuffle the remaining twigs,

Pull from one side to rebuild what was lost, 

But the twigs were brittle,

They refused to bend. 

She clung to the fragmented fortress,

Fear stopped rash moves.

Sometimes she didn’t even want to breath-

Trepidation’s grip nearly strangled her.

Some days she didn’t leave her perch,

Fearing it would be gone when she returned.

She tried to leave but failed time and again,

Returned to the tenuous branches,

Where she no longer felt secure. 

She left, knowing

she should never return.

Never wonder.

Never ask.

She spent days gathering,

carrying, 

Collecting,

Forgetting. 

Some days she swooped close to the tree,

But never too close.

The new home was complete.

It was secure,

It was, in fact, a most acceptable place.

She wondered if happiness, security, and comfort 

Would follow her here.

Only she could hear the doubt in her song.