FEATURE

Susan Culver-Graybeal is a news reporter from Colorado. She is also the founder and editor of Lily: A Monthly Online Literary Review.

Lily was born in 2003 from Susan's desire to share the beauty of poetry, fiction and photography in a free and easily accessible way. Thanks in large part to a dedicated editorial staff and the literary and photographic contributions, from many talented individuals through the years, the journal was published monthly until October, 2007.

After a three and a half year hiatus, and with the input and encouragement of Indigo Moor, Susan began publishing Lily again in May, 2011. She had never stopped missing the love and work that went into the journal. She continues to be amazed by the beauty of the words and images that the contributors bring to it every month.

Break

She says she wants to break. Not like two halves of a bridge, but a hundred. I want to rain down heavy in this shock of spring, want to make a noise you'll remember a lifetime from now. The kind of sound that wakes someone. Damage you can't just repair, baby. And she says if I'm going to be like that, then I want to be both the hammer and the broom. something different, for once, than this never-moving. I want to be the muscles, the machines, the brow of exertion. The way the highway smells at 75 and nearly June. Want to be the dust rising on the west wind. Some kind of song, then: go far, little shimmer. Want to see the coast for once. And she says I want to be the girl standing there in the sand. With the luxury of small shoulders beneath that good morning jacket. With a smile, she says. The kind of girl who can tell you I was there, I saw it all. But I was never like that. And you'd believe her.

Susan Culver-Graybeal

In Silent Ward

These North-facing windows seem contrary to hope. But here, hope is all once can endeavor to own. In silent ward, the doctor comes once a month. They line for him. They preen like birds who have only begun to divine their own colors. There is something about human touch, about a voice saying look at my light and now follow it with your eyes. This swallows the bitter pill; this sets the heart careeing into rib walls. At yard time, the sunshine smells like hopscotch. One nearly risks the whispered hush to the echoes when they're skipping. Here, recreation is another way to say reflection. There are a hundred souls and there is one. She is looking out the window, she is out there by the fence. She is pondering the way the moon mocks the distance; sends the tides scurrying this way or that way. She is watching herself, is blinking twice. She's waving her hands slowly, almost as if she's saying hello. As if she's saying goodbye.

Susan Culver-Graybeal .

Hurt

The word itself is like an inappropriate response. Like sex or shame or girl. Like let down your hair, so enough of it. Let's rewrite the ending. For Rapunzel, I mean. Let's say she got tired of lighting the candles, of waiting. Then she realized, for once, that in the same way she bore his lovely weight, she could also bear her own. We could take it further, you know. Could say the way she was born for this. For knotting those godforsaken tresses to the bedpost and saving herself. We could talk of scraped knees, of how the city looked on the way down. Like another thousand candles. How she wanted the world to say her name. And what she got out of she remained tied to. Love, I tell you, I would do it like this if it were me. Would pull free each and every taught strand - then glossing over the middle of this - would stagger said self, sh shorn and unbeautiful, to the outskirts. To wait, like hurt waits, with lies like resolution on the tip of her wordless tongue. We're talking about her, love, waiting for him to pass by. On his way to empty windows, a bit of flesh. All those broken threads. The way, lifetiems later, he will swear she was only a dream. How nobody else will tell him any different.

Susan Culver-Graybeal 

A Small Consolation

Back here again and she says to me, you always come back here. Today, she sits near the window, near the warm, September light. Watches as she watches. As if she's wondering what I'm going to do next. And I'm close enough now to see her mouth, to see that newer version of an old scar beneath it. Because my children are older now than she is, I have realized how easily children scare. How those little fears can follow, can haunt. So I don't tell her that she'll always be afraid of dogs or of monsters or how both can hide in the skin of men. I don't tell her how the monster can hide even in her own skin. This time, while not yet her friend, I am no longer her captor, but rather only a passerby. A reflection of her own curiosity. I show her my face. My wrists. Look, I say to her. Look how time makes the scars fade and I wait for her to breathe it in. Turn my hands over to show her. In a few years, you'll quit biting your nails, I tell her. You will swim a small sea and you'll live in a trailer. But they'll still say, I say to her, they love your words. They'll still say you're pretty. And I speak of it as if it is more than a small consolation.
 
Susan Culver-Graybeal

I was Thinking of Telling You

Of the dream, love, and I was dreaming of telling you that I would come to you, love. Had - in fact - already arrived, as I was whispering it to your skin. Too, perhaps I was counting the reasons that I should never move, never breathe. Should just stay like this, the mountain girl from the only unknown to you. The mountain world and what I would miss of this: spring when it goes all gracious and alive. To its knees before the newborn light. Yes, I was thinking of the Magi, love, with all those flowers and flowers. I was dreaming of telling you how afraid I am that your city would shatter me, was whispering it on your skin and then I turned away though you were real, were warm. Though you smelled like hope, like tomorrow, and I was thinking of me on the rooftops of all your highrises. Barefoot on the sidewalks of all your saddest streets. A sort of broken beautiful, love, all robin's-egg and torn at the edges. The shell of something flown away far. I was turning away and you were turning toward. I was thinking of telling you of the dream and you were whispering to my skin, love. Tell me, tell me, as if words were enough, will ever be. As if I could be enough, be more than just another sweet landscape beneath your hands. I'll tell you later, I said. And later is still a lifetime away.

Susan Culver-Graybeal

There, In This Memory

You're the girl, eighteen. On the bridge and you're thinking how easy it would be to simply step off for a while. And you're thinking because you always think. Because nothing is easy. And the only justifiable reason you have for not jumping is that you're already three days late. That maybe it will be a girl. The way you can reconcile yourself with suicide, but being a killer was never your style. So you step back. Braid yourself into some other dream. You're the girl, the waitress, the hairstylist, you're working day and night for the sake of the child. Because a princess should have a castle and it's all so damn hard sometimes and you are braiding, playing. Have made yourself a cellist in a place that looks like Red Rocks, is this close to the sky itself. Yet, when she cries in the darkness you will climb back down. Will find her because you always find her. And you will press her heart to yours, tangle your fingers in her hair, say look, look, beautiful. Can't you see the stars? Will hum your song for her and you will scale those walls again. The music will fade and art will take its place. Because you are never satisfied. Because she deserves nothing less, you will peel away the layers of clouds. Will be picking out the little planes you hid there. You are peeling away, pulling back. You are scrubbing off even the blue and even the black. You are taking this to nothing but the solid etching beneath. Can feel it now: that face of God. Still there the way it was when first you drew it. So very long ago.

Susan Culver-Graybeal

Yesterday'a News. Biggest Super Moon in 18 Years Amazes Sky Watchers

And somewhere past the pier, past the place so thronged with human need, there is probably a woman with a tattoo of Ohio on her shoulder. With small hands and she's felt both the water and the sand slip through them. And she's thought a lot about what it means to be alone, to grasp for some celestial empty as she's whispering to a stranger three states away. Love me, please. And somewhere, closer, the students wonder if the light from the moon equals, roughly, the glow from the flares, from the missiles, from the ache of certain reckoning. Because sometimes the woman slips the ring from her finger and she throws it away. Outside, those who gather have gathered to pray. They've uttered themselves past the notion of sin and they begin again. God said let there be light. Always this: the divining of gifts and punishment. How one random region after another spent their Saturday night under the cover of clouds. The way someone's daughter huddles under the porch light. Says she will never be enough and out there, Mrs. Ohio lingers over the word perigee sixty times. Years later and she has been a thin map, folded upon herself like this. A bit of sketchy details on a universe not suited. Because this is how it happens: her crawling across the floor. Plucking that ring from the trash. For a second it feels cold to her touch. But time passes quickly.

Susan Culver-Graybeal

Bad Wife

And he dreamt he gentled the filly. Took her past the hayfields, where morning danced with afternoon and it all spelled a chill on his bare arms. Cast the thought in golden light while his hands grew calloused from holding the rope. Gentled her, then, until she responded to his very whisper. Til she shimmered a little every time he touched her. In other dreams, he saw himself just rid of her. Casting his blue eyes to the ministry then and how he'd soften a bit for the common folk. He even practiced it: the way he'd stand before them, having been to the end and back. Would speak of her betrayal in terms of stripes. By His stripes, he would declare, we are healed. The flock would marvel at his strength. Would wonder how he even faced another day and then, if time allotted, he'd bring out the horse metaphors. Would liken the woman to any other faceless heathen, speak of how she couldn't be broke as they all nodded in unison - each having grasped some kind of unbreakable as they have. But, by the strength of God, he'd say, we can leave that horse to wander and wander. We don't have to follow. No, we don't have to follow. For we have a higher power. We have a better way.
 
Susan Culver-Graybeal

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