Visual Verse Stories and Poems

Visual Verse is “an anthology of art, poetry, short fiction and non-fiction.” Each month the editors provide a compelling image and invite writers to submit a piece in response.

Visual Verse is found at https://visualverse.org/

 

 

One-Way Street

 

And so we meet on a one-way street.

Everyone but me moving the same direction,

Like twigs and leaves, nature’s debris, floating on the surface of a swiftly moving frigid stream,

Never knowing all that moves inches underneath.

You flow north with all the rest,

And I struggle opposite

Like salmon on a quest you can never understand.

 

“Hey,” you say, “look at us. You’re doing this all wrong.”

I shake my head and wave my hand. “Thanks. I’ll carry on.”

 

“But the crowd,” you say, “Look at the crowd. You’re moving opposite us.”

“For now,” I say, “you are right, but time may change yours and mine and all of our perspective.”

 

“No!” you shout, “don’t you see. You’re a child. A fool.

I know what’s going to happen.

You’ll waste your youth on foolish dreams.

Then, in your middle years, you’ll realize what should have been and realize what cannot be and lay awake at 3:00 a.m. unable to fall asleep.”

“It’s possible,” I say. “Who can say which of us right? I’ll carry on and pray in twenty, thirty years I can sleep through the night.”

 

“Stop!” you shout. “Everyone stop!”

And everyone obeys.

Everyone but me.

The stream no longer flows downhill.

The current has ceased.

 

“Now,” you say, “pause. Relax. No need to get worked up.

Listen to me, an adult perspective, wiser than you will ever be. You think you move in the right direction, but how can you be right when everyone else moves opposite?”

The others pause and listen, assess your argument.

“For now,” I say, “you–”

“No more ‘for now’,” you scream and rage. “You’re ruining your life. You’re making youthful, arrogant mistakes you can never take back.”

 

I step aside and I press on the way I’ve always walked.

And others turn and contemplate.

And others take a tiny step.

Another step.

Still more.

Until the stream is flowing in the opposite direction.

Until the one-way street has turned.

 

Who can speak of a one way street,

The direction one must go?

If you move north and I move south can either of us know who makes the right decision?

 

 

 

The Raft

Published by Visual Verse, Volume 7, Chapter 1, November, 2019

Rude

Image by Rude Ltd.

I don’t know how it happened, just an idea, really, standing on the beach, the waves under my feet when inspiration struck. I didn’t mean to think it, but it
Grew until it filled my mind, my only thought, a dream I could not give
Up, a hope that possessed me, but enough, I had to wonder, to stake my life
On? I couldn’t say, but nor could I leave
This dream. I could not set it aside, no matter how
Tiny the chance, no matter how
Little my hope of eventual success. This boat, no, little more than a feeble raft, twigs and logs tied with string, but enough that I can hope to finally leave this
Island.

 

 

 

When Pigs Fly

Published by Visual Verse, Volume 6, Chapter 10, August, 2019

When Pigs Fly

Image by Jakob Owens

 

Ha!
They said I couldn’t do it. Boy, were they wrong.
They said flying is where your feet don’t touch the ground.
They said flying takes your breath away.
They said flying is like floating, the wind on my face, weightless.
When I told them I would do it, they all laughed. They proclaimed I was a fool, pigs can never fly.
But they were wrong.
Wait until they get a load of me.

 

 

In a World of Two Dimensions…

Published by Visual Verse, Volume 6, Chapter 1, November, 2018

https://visualverse.org/submissions/in-a-world-of-two-dimensions/

Image by Hannah Coulson

In a world that saw in two dimensions, Jane was three-dimensional. She didn’t know anyone else who saw the world she way she saw it. She didn’t know what 3-D was. She’d never even heard the term. All she knew was that she saw the world differently.

In class she looked out the window and swore reality was not the way others describe it. But when she told her teacher he only said, “That cannot be. There’s no such thing. Your mind is playing tricks on me.”

“’Tricks on me’?” she asked. “You said ‘tricks on me.’ Don’t you mean tricks on you. I think–”

“I know what I mean. Don’t interrupt.” He turned his back and walked away, and Jane knew she wasn’t wrong. She knew what she saw.

The world is not as others say, she thought. I will make them see. I will turn them upside down. It is up to me.

 

 

A Perfect Samurai

Published by Visual Verse, Volume 6, Chapter 2, December, 2018

https://visualverse.org/submissions/a-perfect-samurai/

Image by Dong Chensheng

 

Samurai are supposed to flip.

But Toshi only flopped.

Samurai saunter.

Toshi stomped.

Samurai slither.

Toshi clomped.

Other people stared at him, but Toshi didn’t mind. “That’s not who I am,” he said to anyone who would listen. “I won’t conform. I am me. Accept me for me, or leave me be. It matters little in the end.”

“But…,” someone always countered, whispered timidly.

“There are no ‘buts,'” Toshi roared. “Only what is true. I accept me for me. Will you accept you for you?”

 

 

I Choose

Published by Visual Verse, Volume 6, Chapter 4, February, 2019

https://visualverse.org/submissions/i-choose/

Image by Norbu Gyachung

 

In the face of fear,
I choose courage.
In the face of despair,
I choose hope.
In the face of cynicism,
I choose trust.
In the face of hate,
I choose love.
In the face of strife,
I choose peace.
In the face of haste,
I choose patience.
In the face of cruelty,
I choose to be kind.
In the face of evil,
I choose the good.
In the face of perfidy,
I choose faith.

In your face of hopelessness,
I dare to dream,
To look you in the eye and scream,
Or tell you by my silent presence,
“You cannot destroy me.
I remain.
I stand.
I
Am
Me.”

 

 

Down to Perspective

Published by Visual Verse, Volume 6, Chapter 5, March, 2019

 Image by NASA

 

At the donut shop we see a picture, my daughter and I, a photograph of an astronaut floating in the void. My daughter asks, “What is that?”

I examine the picture and see a tiny figure lost amid the cosmos. I wonder: How do you explain the massiveness of the Earth to a child? How do I put in perspective one tiny human life?

“The Earth,” I tell my little girl, “is like…like…a donut, the biggest ever made.”

I point to the largest donut in the display. “It goes on and on in waves. Some of it is smooth like the sweet, sweet glaze and some is like the crenellated dough, crisp from the fryer rising in a massive mountain range. Beneath the surface is the…um…the jelly filling that sometimes oozes to the surface, sometimes when you’re ready, but mostly when you’re not.”

“And we, people like the astronaut, we are like tiny sprinkles, miniscule. Inconsequential, really.” I’m stumbling now, fumbling for words. Where do I go from here? “We’re like a little decoration, sweet to look at, but meaningless in the scheme of things.”

I pause.

And wonder.

Have I gone too far, allowed my adult-onset pessimism to jade my child’s view of life?

She looks at me and tilts her head and says, “Daddy, I think you’re wrong. I think you have forgotten. Glaze and frosting and jelly filling are nice. But they’re not what makes a donut special. The sprinkles, Daddy, the sprinkles are the best part.”

She points at a donut, yellow cake, chocolate frosting and sprinkles over it all. “The sprinkles are the best part, Daddy. They’re what make the rest of the donut special.”

The boy behind the counter clears his throat. “What are you having?” he asks.

My daughter and I point, both of us, at donuts covered in sprinkles.

Covered in sprinkles that make everything else special.