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       Soul Reflection: A Collection of Poems, Essays & Short Stories, p.1

          
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Soul Reflection: A Collection of Poems, Essays & Short Stories


  Soul Reflection;

  A Collection of Poems, Essays & Short Stories

  By Keri L.

  Copyright 2017 Keri L.

  Table of Contents

  The Artist

  I Do

  A Stranger’s Love

  The Pool of Reflection

  Positivity vs Negativity

  Goodbye

  What If It Was You?

  A Letter & Prayer for Our Police Officers

  Ireland

  The Power of Memories

  A Love Letter from God

  Louisiana Boy

  Seasons

  Moment

  Façade

  Stop the Cycle

  Untitled Poem

  The Circle of Lies

  A Letter of Love to Myself

  Because of the Brave

  New Age Love Affair

  When I Look at You

  Believe

  Where the Heart Is

  Shine

  Miracles

  About Keri L.

  Connect With Keri L.

  Other Books by Keri L.

  The Artist

  A broken, tattered canvas stood in the corner of the large room that was filled with an uncountable number of pictures and frames, seemingly forgotten. Its cherry wood frame no longer gleamed, its reddish hue dulled to a dusty grey. The canvas itself was a sad sight to see, blotches of mismatching colors splattered across it. A dried-out palette of mixed paint and a stiff brush lay on the floor next to it, as if dropped, like the artist couldn't bear to go on and had decided to start on a fresh canvas. 

  The door to the room opened, its un-oiled hinges angrily protesting, and a man entered, a case of paints in his hand. It was a room that no one besides him was allowed to enter, and in it, magic was known to be wrought, and whispers were heard, saying the canvases could talk.

  He looked around, taking in the beautiful pictures he'd painted not too long ago, and he gave a small laugh at the scene he'd created the day before.

  He strode to the windows and forced them open, and a sudden breeze made the tatters on the lonely canvas in the corner lift, and when they settled back down, it was as if they had sighed.

  The man paused, turning toward the soft noise, and sadness filled his kind eyes as he gazed at the canvas, a canvas that had been determined to paint itself from the moment it'd been created. It had seemed to fight him every step of the way, demanding colors and patterns that made no sense, and finally, it had told him to go away. Years had passed, and time and its attempts to paint itself had given it holes and gouges. One day, it had finally given up and had sat quietly, never beckoning to him, though he asked it every single day.

  Until now. Every morning, he came in and opened the windows, and every morning, the breeze would move through the room, but today was the first day it had stirred the tatters, and it did so again, and this time, a whisper reached the artist's ears. "Please."

  In an instant, he was in the corner, carefully lifting the canvas, mindful to not grip it too tightly. He carried it to the center of the room where the sun shone in with a warm beam and set it on his easel.

  He ran his hand over it, feeling its fragility, and his calloused fingers were gentle. He opened his case and perused his colors, his breathing slow and steady.

  He decided on red, a vibrant red, one that bore the label 'Anew.' He squeezed some onto his clean palette and swirled it around with his feather soft brush.

  "For a fresh start," he whispered lovingly, and gently touched the brush to the canvas. Over and over he dipped the brush into the paint, then put it to the canvas, and everywhere he spread the red, the canvas became a startlingly white.

  A few of the small tatters and gouges he filled in, but some he left alone, and moving so quickly he almost tripped, he changed colors to a dark blue that was called 'Love,' and after that, to a soft pink titled 'Joy.'

  Hour after hour he stood in the room, painting, creating, breathing life, and though he had thick scars in the palms of both of his hands, he had the gentlest touch. His eyes often filled with tears, but his hand never wavered, and the sun seemed to stand still.

  Only once did he stop, when the canvas shuddered, and with a sigh he said, "It might hurt right now, but you need to trust me. Let me help, I can make it better."

  The canvas resisted a moment longer then finally yielded, and over the spot that caused so much pain, he painted with his finger.

  He stood back to admire his work, but halted when he heard a protest. "I'm full of holes, no paint can fix that. So, tell me, why bother?"

  "I'm not yet done," he said, just a bit sternly, and went back to his case where he rummaged around. A minute later he came up with some tiny bulbs, and going behind the canvas he whispered, "This is better than fixing the holes, it's certainly much prettier. And when people see the light, they'll realize that for all their paintings, they need to come to me."

  He gently pushed a bulb in a hole, its white light twinkling merrily. "It might hurt a bit a first," he continued as the canvas cried out, "but in time, it will only bring splendor."

  This time when he stood to admire his work after polishing the frame, the canvas remained silent. Colors in every hue were melded together in a picture that was one of a kind. Here and there the white lights shone, and with a nod, the artist smiled.

  "Now," he said, "how do you feel?"

  The canvas let out a laugh that carried a sigh. "I feel so different, completely new! How can I ever thank you?" It laughed again, and its lights glowed brighter, and while there were many murmurs of appreciation from the other paintings, from the other end of the room, the artist heard a sad sigh.

  "I think I'll put you here," he said, lifting the newly painted canvas and carrying it to the back of the room. "Of course, I'm not done yet, but for now, you're exactly what you need to be."

  He carefully set it down across from another canvas, which was really just a frame with black tatters around the edges. "This is just temporary," he told his shining painting, reminding it of a dream he'd given it long ago. He moved away, his heart hopeful as he watched the black tatters of the damaged canvas begin to stretch out toward the sparkle of its new neighbor's lights.

  When my parents decided they wanted to remodel their foyer, I was placed in charge of deconstruction and painting. It was while painting the ceiling I first had the idea for a story about an artist, but initially, it was going to be a poem. One morning half way into the remodeling project, as I was drying my hair, I was struck with a sudden urge to sit down and write. I had no idea what I would say, but as soon as my pen touched the paper of my pocket notebook, I knew exactly what to write. The words seemed to flow out of me, and twice, I attempted to put my pen down and go about my day, but each time, I felt that I shouldn’t, almost as if the Lord Himself was pressing a hand to my shoulder, urging me to finish. When I finally did, I was crying. I had never written anything like that before, nor have I since. To this day, ‘The Artist’ is still my favorite short story, and I hope it touches you as much as it touched me, and that you learn what I did; no matter the mistakes you’ve made, no matter how messy you feel your canvas has become, God is the Artist, and if we but give our lives to Him, He will create a master piece that like no other.

  I Do

  Today, I make this vow

  Today, I swear this oath

  To be yours forever and evermore

  To hold you close and never let go

  When I look in your eyes

  I can see our future

  And I know that whatever comes our way

  We’ll make it through, fighting together

  Today, I hold your hand

  And my heart is complete

  As we become one till the end of all time

  In a promise that we’ll always keep

  Anywhere I will go

  I’ll be with you in health

  I promise to be with you in sickness

  Would take your place should it lead to death

  Deep in my soul I know

  We’ll make it through all things

  I can’t even say how much I love you

  I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine

  Today, I make this vow

  Today, I swear this oath

  Before God and man, I do solemnly declare

  With everything that is in my soul

  I do

  I’ve always loved writing poetry, and ‘I Do’ was my first serious poem. I wrote it using my second eldest brother’s wedding as inspiration, and I actually submitted it to a contest. Though I didn’t win the competition, I was given the opportunity to have it featured in a book of poetry, and though I’ve written dozens of poems since, this one still has a special place in my heart.

 

  A Stranger’s Love

  “What do you have to say for yourself? Any last words to try to clear yourself of the charges brought against you?”

  I flinched back as spit hit my face while someone delivered a sharp kick to my calf. Blood was dripping down the side of my neck, and I could feel multiple bruises and cuts burn my skin, more being added every minute. My clothes were torn, reduced to rags by the wrathful crowd that surrounded me, and even my sneakers were ripped and scuffed. Sweat ran down my arms and back, and I could feel it sliding through the grime that coated my body from the multiple times I’d been thrown to the dusty ground, subjected to beatings.

  My hair hung about my face in ratted snarls, and I could barely see out of my left eye, which was almost swollen shut from when I’d been punched an hour earlier. The sun beat down on me, a high-pitched whine filling my ears, and I could only shake my head as someone shoved a cell phone in my face, recording every moment of my humiliation and shame. There was nothing I could say to clear myself of the accusations, because every charge that had been brought against me was true. I deserved what was happening - I deserved every bit of this punishment.

  Laughter rang out, and it only increased in fervor when I let out a cry after a rock was thrown at me, bruising my shoulder, my shirt full of holes, the sleeves ripped away. Tears and snot dripped off my chin and I sobbed, shaking my head harder even as I was forced to the ground, my knees crying out in pain as the gravel bit into them, the smell of dirt and sweat filling my senses. A blow to the side of my head left my mind spinning, the dull roar in it drowned out by the jeers and insults of the crowd as another wad of spit landed on my cheek.

  “Well?” one of my accusers demanded, jerking my face up to meet his, using my hair to do so. “Got anything to say?”

  “No,” I choked out, my body lurching forward as a boot met the small of my back. “I have nothing to say, the charges are true. Please,” I begged, “have mercy on me. Please.”

  My words were cut off when the man slapped my cheek. Letting my head drop back down, he straightened and waited for the crowd to quiet. When they had, he said, “She is found guilty! Guilty, I tell you! Yet she begs for mercy. Shall we give it to her?” The crowd answered with angry screams and he laughed. “That’s what I thought.”

  He placed his hands on his hips. “So, what say you? What shall we do with her? What does she deserve?”

  “Crucify!” someone shouted, and within moments it was a chant, yelled out by hundreds of people, many throwing rocks at me, those closest slapping me as I wept into my bloody hands. “Crucify her! Crucify her! Crucify her!”

  I was jerked to my feet and pushed forward, and looking up, I saw that we were headed to the top of a nearby hill, and my legs went numb, knowing what was coming, but also knowing that it was only right, that it was everything I deserved. I could see a young woman standing at the top, twirling a yellow and black hammer in her hands, a snarl on her face, and I shuddered, vomit filling my throat even as blood covered my vision.

  I was shoved forward, the crowd chanting behind me as one of them ripped my shirt away, my nakedness on display for all to see, but suddenly, I was pushed to the side as a man stepped in front of me, his brown hair ruffling in the hot wind that blew over the city. “I will take her place!” he shouted, and the shrieks of the crowd increased, then fell silent a moment later. “I will take her place. Crucify me, instead.”

  The woman stopped twirling the hammer and gave him a dark look. “You will, eh?” she said in a mocking tone. “Do you have any idea what she’s done? She deserves everything she’s got coming, you know.”

  “Maybe so,” the man replied calmly, “but still, I will take her place. Take my life instead of hers. I offer my life as a sacrifice to atone for what she has done.”

  “Well,” a man behind me said, “a life is a life, I suppose. If we take yours, she’ll be free to go, her debt will be paid. Sure that’s what you want, friend?”

  The man turned, and said, “Yes. I want her to go free. I will take her place, I will bear her punishment.”

  He finally met my eyes, and in their brown depths I saw compassion and what I can only describe as an unconditional love. They were filled with tears, and one slipped down his olive-skinned cheek to be absorbed into his thick beard. “Why?” I whispered. “Why are you doing this? You don’t even know me.”

  He touched his hand to my cheek and the callouses on it were rough against my skin, his knuckles adorned with cuts and little scars. “Because,” he replied softly as the crowd muttered behind us, the woman in front of us snapping her gum impatiently, “I love you. I don’t expect you to understand, but I do expect you to accept this.”

  He turned away, facing the woman again. He gave a nod and I felt myself get shoved back as the crowd rushed forward, screaming curses and insults at him, deciding to accept his offer, making him the focus of their scorn, and I screamed with them, though my cry was one of agony and confusion, not hate and rage. They fell on my savior, beating him with their hands, their shoes, rocks they picked up, even grabbing the hammer from the young woman. I could hear his clothes being torn from his body, blood blooming on his dark skin, bruises staining his body, his muffled groans of pain feeling deafening to my ears.

  I heard a shout and turned to watch a young man appear on the other side of the hill, a metal pipe in his hand, and the crowd parted, making way for him. With a shout, he thrust the pipe into my redeemer’s side, who let out a guttural groan as blood spurted out around it before it was jerked out by an old woman who cackled and shook it in the air like it was some sort of trophy.

  The man fell to the ground, clutching his side, eyes shut in pain, his tears dripping to the blood splattered grass, but when he finally opened them, they weren’t filled with anger or hate, they were filled with… love. They met mine as I stared at him through a gap in the mob, and I could feel warmth surround me, could feel the ache of my pain be soothed, then he was thrown backwards, spread out over the wooden structure that lay on the dirt.

  A darkness seemed to swirl among the people running about, and I backed away even as the hammer rose and fell and my defender’s piercing cries of pain rose up as a thick nail was driven through his wrist, much to the crowd’s pleasure. Twice more the thunk of the hammer rang out, and twice more his agonized screams rent the air, blood gushing from his side, from his feet, his wrists, and I turned and pushed my way through the crowd, trying to block out what was happening behind me, trying to be blind to the punishment that should have been mine.

  I ran for I don’t know how long until I dropped from exhaustion, my wounds draining me, my sorrow like an endless scream in my mind. I was vaguely aware of being dragged into a house, and when I woke up later that night, I was on a strange couch, clothed in a big tee shirt, my body washed, my wounds attended to. The woman who had nursed me helped me to her table, quietly serving me a bowl of soup and a chunk of bread even as I sobbed, and she wrapped her arms around me, resting her head on mine.

  “Why?” I cried. “Why would he do that? Who was he? Why would he take my place? Why would he do such a thing when this is tradition?”

  The woman sat down across from me, the candle on the table between us flickering, casting her face into shadows. “You do not know?” she asked, her voice carrying a slight accent, and I shook my head. “Well,” she said, “that man… that man was Jesus, from over in Nazarene. You have not heard of him?”

  “No,” I replied brokenly, and she gestured for me to eat.

  When I had finally taken a bite of the bread, she said, “He was a very good man. I cannot understand much of what he did in his life, but he was everything we are not. He was so kind, so compassionate. I think that is why he took your place today.”

  “But he didn’t even know me!” I yelled, my tears falling to mix with my soup, and she reached across the table and touched my bandaged hand.

  “I don’t think that’s how love works,” she said. “I don’t think you have to know someone to love them.”

 
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