Poems & Short Stories

Spare Change Heart

(Song Lyrics for the band 63 Cents a Day)

I feel like I’m crawling uphill
Starving for the light to cure my ills
But even if I do everything your way
You only give me sixty-three cents a day

Fuck your spare change heart
It’s driving us apart
Disappointment has become an art
So fuck your spare change heart

Your approval used to feel like the sun
Days of dark laughter and fun
Now your look gives me a chill
And it’s sucking out all of my will

Fuck your spare change heart
It’s driving us apart
Disappointment has become an art
So fuck your spare change heart

I would give you my soul
TO bask in your glow
But you’ve shut off the light
Leaving me in the deepest night
So fuck your spare change heart.

The Dream

She still couldn’t shake the previous night’s dream. Dozens of men clothed in odd black uniforms rushing in a panic, brandishing their guns and swords. They swirled around her like a whirlwind, intent on protecting her. Protecting her from something, something fierce, something determined, something ultimately deadly. The shouts, the barked orders, the stomping sound of combat boots rushing over concrete, were almost deafening. There was only one man left behind after the troops fought their way through the door. “We’ll protect you.” He said quite simply. His dark eyes were somehow full of warmth, compassion, perhaps even pity and then he was gone too, leaving her alone in the cold, dark room.

She shook her head, trying to dismiss the remnants of the dream, as she crossed the bright, sun-lit kitchen and fumbled with the coffee maker. Her hand moved automatically, bypassing the timer and programming a nice rich brew. As her fingers brushed over the start button another flicker passed, reviving the dream again.
She peered out through the blinds to see the makeshift army charging forwards, bullets spraying, knives glinting in the moonlight. Bodies flew back, some crashing against the wall, flung casually by the mysterious assailant. Closer and closer the wake came, the shouts becoming louder, more desperate. A sudden crash against the door, jolted her back from the window, and that same commander came bustling through the door. He quickly slammed it closed and leaned against it, catching his breath, before his eyes fell on her with a physical weight.

“You have to touch the weapons. If you touch them, we will be able to hurt him. You’re the only one that can do this, the only one that can save us all.” The desperation in his voice was palpable. None of it made any sense. How could her touch be effective or make any difference at all? It was ludicrous what this man was asking.

With a heavy sigh, and the scent of coffee filling the air, she came back to her senses, shaking off the dream once more. She went about her mundane morning, pouring cereal, pattering barefoot into the living room and grabbing the remote. As news of the war efforts in various countries flashed across the screen, her thoughts drifted back again like they were somehow pulled by an invisible string.

The room was crowded with men holding out their bullets, their guns, swords, knives, anything that could inflict any damage. She made her way through the room, like a saint, placing the blessing of her touch upon the instruments of destruction. As she caressed each piece of metal, a heavy weight pressed against her heart, some dark shadow of foreboding that screamed for her to stop. With the last piece, she closed her olive eyes with something close to regret.

As the men began to hurry out of the room again, she ran to the window, peering through the blinds to try and catch a glimpse of this incredible foe. A tall man stood in the center of the courtyard, dressed in unassuming clothes. He seemed collected, but impatient. He glanced up at the window suddenly and the intensity of his eyes made her take a step back. The charcoal grey pierced right through her, holding her attention as if trying to convey some deep message.

Then the men were upon him again. The first shot made his eyes widen, though they stayed fixed on her. A faint trail of blood seeped from the neat wound in his shoulder, and the men broke out in shouts of triumph. Her heart raced feverishly and she tore away the blinds for a better look. None of this was real, it was all a dream. She kept repeating it to herself in futility, as if the words would somehow convince her heart that none of this was truly happening.

A second shot rang out in the night with an eerie echo, making his arm flail backwards. The man grimaced in pain but still kept his piercing eyes on her. One brave soul rushed towards him with a knife. The dark stranger’s hand moved too fast for any to see and the knife wielder went flying backwards to stumble against a group of his companions.

There in that instant, even now reliving the dream, she knew. He was not trying to kill these men, he was simply trying to get past them. There was no malice or harm lingering in those warm grey eyes. There was simply need. A need so deep it would shake normal men to the core. He needed her, intensely. She pressed her palms against the glass, leaning against it, breathless. How could this stranger need her so badly? Who was he? What could he possible want from someone so…unimportant?

Another eerie shot rang out and the mysterious man fell to one knee with a howl of anguish that tore right through her heart. What had she done? The troops were gathering around him, guns held high and fixed upon his kneeling form. They were closing in. With a stab of fear and panic she ran for the door, flinging it open and screaming as another shot echoed through the night with the sound of finality.

She shook off the dream once more, wiping her shaking hands over her cheeks only to find them tear streaked. She could still feel her heart pounding with terror in her chest. The TV rambled on about a local apartment fire that closed 3 city blocks, but it was just distant white noise in her mind. She pulled a blanket around herself, cuddling into it, hoping the warmth would chase away this dream and its strong hold over her. Even as her arms crossed one another over her chest, her eyes closed and again she was frozen in that dim doorway.

She stood there, breathless, her cold hands clutching the door frame and her eyes fixed on the man doubled-over in the middle of the courtyard. Her panicked scream had captured the attention of the army, most of them turning towards her in confusion or irritation. An eerie silence settled over the scene, with only the ragged breaths from the bleeding man to break the quiet. Each painful gasp stabbed deeper into her heart. She had to help him, with no knowledge as to why. Just a deep, unwavering certainty.

The leader with the warm, dark eyes was before her now. His large hands clasped her shoulders with a sympathetic squeeze. He felt sorry for her. She could see that in his eyes now. It really was pity, but why? “You shouldn’t be out here. You need to go back inside so we can do our job and defend you properly.” Reluctantly her emerald green eyes left the injured man and focused on the captain. Yes, she remembered now. He was Captain Grant. Why hadn’t she remembered that before? There was another thought lingering just out of reach. It was something important, urgent, but the more she chased it, the farther it receded in her mind. He began to guide her inside, with the gentleness of a father. Before that observation could sink in, something else grabbed her attention.

“CATHERINE!” The ragged cry was a desperate, passionate plea tinged with fear that rang eerily through the cool night air. Her eyes flashed back to the dark warrior and met his intense gray eyes. That was her name, she was suddenly sure of it. A whole host of emotions cascaded over her intermingled with flashes of lost memories. It was like a dam inside her burst and a whole world she never knew existed came tumbling out. She was instantly immersed in the curve of those lips pressed against her skin. The way his hot breath would raise a shiver from her body. The tingling sensation of those hands tracing along the line of her, summoning a dizzy, intoxicated pleasure. A lover’s hunger in those gray eyes as he looked down on her. The feel of his body, slick with sweat, completing hers. That voice, heavy with lust, whispering his devotions. His words echoed in her head, bringing tears to her eyes. “I will always find you. Always.”

In the midst of her epiphany, the troops had returned their focus to Sebastian. That was his name, the name of her forgotten lover. His eyes were still fixed on her with a frail hope. He saw the recognition in her eyes, bringing a smile to his blood-stained lips. One of the troops was moving in closer and it caught her attention. A sharp blade glinted maliciously in his hand as he snuck behind Sebastian’s prone form. The smile on his lips quickly faded as he saw terror drain the blood from her face and her hand clutch the door frame until her knuckles were white.

She shoved past Captain Grant and sprinted through the men, pushing and clawing her way through. “NO!” She screeched in pure panic. The crouching man paused, distracted by her scream, his knife held high and poised to strike. She shoved him violently away from Sebastian and fell, sobbing to her knees. The adrenaline and fear pulsed throughout her entire body as she fought to catch her breath. Her palms rested on her knees and her eyes fluttered closed, while her heart pounded so loud in her chest that it was all she could hear.

A blood-spattered finger traced over the back of her hand and she could feel it ripple up her arm and through her body, making every cell of her being more alive. How could she have forgotten? Ever so slowly, her eyes opened, taking in the ragged sight of him through thick dark lashes. Her hand reached out, hesitating several times before touching his face. Sebastian’s gray eyes closed with the faintest touch of her fingertips and a soft gasp escaped his lips. Her brow furrowed as she traced the familiar line of his smile. How could she forget this? How could she believe she needed protection from the man that moved her very soul?

Katrina pulled herself up off the couch and out of the dream. It wasn’t hers. It belonged to Catherine, whoever that was. Once again, she wiped at her tear stained cheeks as she pattered into the kitchen, clutching her empty cereal bowl. She placed it gingerly in the sink while her eyes stared off somewhere distant. No matter how hard she tried, she simply couldn’t shake off this dream and its vibrant emotions. They sank deep into her lonely heart as she looked down at the pale strip of skin on her ring finger. A surge of anger and betrayal coursed through her at the sight of it, the place where her engagement ring once graced her finger. The anger helped, if only she could focus on that, perhaps she could shake the vision of some fictitious man from her mind for good and get on with her day. Besides, he was screaming for someone else. Catherine. She knitted her brows in a determined grimace and briskly walked into the bedroom.

As she began straightening the sheets, tugging at each corner, her fearsome scowl began to drift away. She kept smiling here and there at memories that weren’t truly hers. A stray laugh in the early morning sunlight as a lover tickled her ribs. She stopped and closed her eyes, her hands tightening around the sheets in her hand. This wasn’t right. She can’t possibly have memories of a man she’d never met. She didn’t remember that one being in the dream either. With a slow, steadying breath, she continued to fix the bed and straighten out the comforter. The thought kept returning, over and over. Who was this man? Who was he really? Why was she dreaming memories of him? And who was Catherine?

They weren’t altered memories of her own, that much was certain. Tom never was much for laughter or early mornings lounging in bed. She’d been engaged to Tom for four years and he’d never touched her this deeply. It wasn’t even the stranger’s words. The look in his eyes, that deep, focused need as if nothing in the world could ever be more important. A small smile tugged at her lips as she wondered just what it would be like to truly see that in a man’s eyes. She huffed and shook her head, amused with herself. No man could really look at a woman that way and mean it.

She paused just as she began to reach in her closet. If it’s just a dream, what harm could it do? The meeting wasn’t for several hours still. With a smile, she turned on her heel and sauntered over to the freshly-made bed. She sprawled across it and brought the dream back to her.

There she was, kneeling in front of Sebastian, her hand lightly touching his face. His gray eyes were closed, drinking in her touch. His shoulders fell as if a tremendous weight had been lifted from them. Her fingertips traced the lines of his smile as soft and light as a feather. Boots shifted around her and she was suddenly aware that they were still surrounded. Captain Grant had made his way to the front while she’d been distracted. He had one hand on his holstered gun as he edged a little closer. When Grant spoke, he used the dulcet, even tones that people often use with insane people in hostage situations. “Catherine, you need to come with me. Just back away very slowly. You don’t know what this man is capable of, what he’s done. Please, Darlin’, you need to step away.”

Her olive eyes scanned over him, catching on his hand which still gripped his holstered gun. “It’s you and your gun I’m afraid of.” She spat back venomously. “He isn’t here to harm me. He’s here to save me and all you want to do is kill him.”

Grant took a step back, recoiling from her words. “Save you? You think this monster is even capable of saving someone? What is he saving you from? We’re here to protect you!” The anger broke his calm exterior. This was personal to him somehow. She wasn’t sure why, but his judgment was definitely clouded by personal feelings.

“Leave! Now!” She commanded as she turned her back on Grant and his men. She didn’t care if they left or not, as long as they didn’t cause more trouble. When she looked back at Sebastian, his eyes were on her again. They were cool gray pools that you could get lost in, and right now they were mingled with a myriad of emotions. Pride, love, relief, pain, fear, nervousness. The last few she didn’t quite understand. He fell slowly forward against her, his dark disheveled hair pressing against her shoulder. Catherine wrapped her arms gingerly around him and laid her tear-streaked cheek against his hair with a soft sigh.

Katrina reluctantly opened her eyes to the sun-filled room. The dream receded from her tenuous grip, but still left a smile on her face. Her weary heart felt lighter somehow, more alive and vibrant. She turned her head, glancing at the digital clock’s bright red numbers. It was nearly time for her meeting. Instead of feeling the usual dread, she simply smiled and slid gracefully out of bed. There was a distinct spring in her step as she strolled over to the closet. Her fingers bypassed the usual suits of black and grey, far too ordinary for her mood. Near the back of the closet she found what she was looking for. Several years ago she had splurged on a slim, form-fitting suit of dark amethyst. It made her red hair seem like flames and drew the green out of her olive eyes. Of course, Tom called it unprofessional and it hid there in the very back of the closet ever since. Today she wanted her colors to match her mood. She grabbed the violet suit and a dusky pink shell and pranced off into the bathroom.

Katrina felt unstoppable, gorgeous and full of fresh life. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt this way or if she ever had for that matter. Her fingers slid through her hair, sculpting curls around her face instead of the usual quick ponytail. She fumbled around in several drawers before she found her little makeup bag which had sat there, neglected, since her sister’s wedding a few years back. She stood back from the mirror, taking in the sight and barely recognized herself. The purple shades and the black eyeliner made her eyes the very first thing you noticed. The soft blush along her cheekbones dropped her age from late 30’s to 20’s. She actually felt gorgeous inside and out. Katrina stopped, shaking her head in disbelief. How can a silly dream do all this? How could a man that never existed affect her so dramatically? How could one night’s dream open her eyes, give her a vibrant purpose to a life she’d merely been surviving until now? It was just a dream, after all.

Urban Meditation

The street lights cast an eerie glow
Against the windows of darkened shops
And the intricate scatterings of cobblestones below
With the trickle of traffic that never truly stops.
The air is filled with the wet smell of rain
and the sweet delicacy of powdered confections
My mind wanders through the day’s pain
But my feet wander faster, away from confessions
Each stride another lunge in the fight
Each breathe another puzzle piece
Each inch another closer to the light
Each step another closer to some peace
Memories are sorted and neatly stored
As questions riddle on about the past
Marching on like an angry horde
Knowing the next question will never be the last
Trucks pass by with a thunderous sound
But still cannot distract me from my thought
Searching for an answer that is never found
On the pavement is where my battle is fought
Each stride another lunge in the fight
Each breathe another puzzle piece
Each inch another closer to the light
Each step another closer to some peace
Birds being to chirp their cheery song
Welcoming the dawn with an open heart
Still I wonder where I belong
Another day closer to when I must part
My heart may be tired and laden with lead
But it still rises up with an everlasting hope
Against all odds for it should be filled with dread
Yet somehow it always finds the strength to cope.
Each stride another lunge in the fight
Each breathe another puzzle piece
Each inch another closer to the light
Each step another closer to some peace
Passions that burn and dreams that never fade
Are all safely and securely tucked away
This time has ended, the price has been paid
Another time, another place and yet another day.
Longings and yearnings will soon become prayers
For caresses that touch right down to my soul.
A simple desiring gaze that raises the hairs
A fiery kiss like a smoldering coal.
Each stride another lunge in the fight
Each breathe another puzzle piece
Each inch another closer to the light
Each step another closer to some peace
I round the last corner and cross the last street
Past sirens and lights and those deep in sleep
My mind has finally outpaced my feet
And my heart has regained the ability to leap
A small resolution is finally found
As I climb the stairs to a home that’s not mine
Waiting inside there isn’t a sound
Only a few days ‘til I cross that state line.
Each stride another lunge in the fight
Each breathe another puzzle piece
Each inch another closer to the light
Each step another closer to some peace
Another morning of inner contemplation
Another morning of my urban meditation.