Behind the Lens

photo by Alex Walter

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The Little Girl

by laurie howland

She sat on the cold concrete steps with warm tears rolling down her face. The tears were silent but her sobs weren’t. They came from her heart. She felt sad, lonely and afraid. For even though she was young, all of six years, she was wise enough to know this was wrong.  So, she sat there, crying for her Daddy and hoping he would be home soon. 

The sun was bright and baking down on her but her stubbornness would not allow her to move, to go back inside. Nor did she want to since she didn’t feel welcomed or loved inside the house. Instead, she would sit and wait. Her knee throbbed. She could see the gash and feel the blood rolling down her leg while the tears continued to burn her cheeks. She gripped the band-aids tighter. She knew she could put them on and maybe stop the bleeding so she go back and play. But she longed for someone to make it feel better, to make it less painful. To make her feel better. He had the power to do that. He would care she thought.

Her mother had slammed the door on the her when she walked outside.

Sit out there all day for all I care,” she scolded.

The little girl had fallen on the side walk. The pain had immediately brought tears. She began to sob harder when she saw the blood. She hobbled across the street to where home was and hobbled her away up the front steps and into the front door. 

When she was inside the house she cried for her mom.

Mom.

What?”Her mother yelled from the kitchen.

I fell and it really hurts.” She said through the tears.

Oh, for gods sakes get over it,” Her mother responded angrily from the kitchen not bothering to check on the little girl, not bothering to see what she was crying about. Not bothering to care. Maybe it was in that moment she became a woman and not a mother.

But it really hurts,” the little girl cried again still standing in the doorway, too painful to walk any further.

The woman from the kitchen came storming into the living room to greet the little girl.

It’s all in your head,” she snapped without looking at her.

The little girl was puzzled. Why was the woman so angry? She hadn’t done anything to her. The woman was not in pain.

Mommy, it really hurts,” the little girl pleaded. The pain piercing her heart.

Well, what do you want me to do about it?” She said looking down at the little girls knee with blood dripping from the gash. 

Don’t get blood on my carpet damn it. Get a band-aid.

But, I want you to make it feel better.” The little girl implored.

Unbelievable,” the woman hissed and turned to walk back into the kitchen.

The little girl stood there and began to cry harder though afraid to do so. She didn’t know why the woman was so mad at her.

She precariously made her way to the bathroom, crying more and watching the blood soak into her sock, fearful that it would drip on the carpet. She opened the medicine cabinet door and pulled down the box of band-aids. She grabbed a few since she wasn’t sure how many she would need.

And stop your crying.” She heard shouted from the kitchen.

I can’t,” she explained. “It really hurts.

She shuffled back to the front door, passing the kitchen. As she did so she glanced in and saw the woman standing there and saw the anger again on her face. It was piercing and felt like hatred.

Where are you going?” The woman said angrily.

Outside to wait for Daddy,” she whispered meekly. She was now scared to speak to the woman.

For Pete’s sakes” she hissed. “Aren’t you a little old for this drama?”

It really hurts.” The little girl replied with hope that the woman would have a change of heart and comfort her. She hoped.

But the woman wouldn’t.

Well, he won’t be home for three hours. Good luck.”

The little girl made her way to the front door with the woman following. As she slowly went out the door to sit down on the steps, the woman watched. The little girl sat sobbing from pain in her knee as well as in her heart.

Sit out there all day for all I care,” and with that the woman went back inside and slammed the door behind her.

The little girl sat, waiting.

The blood eventually stopped dripping as did the tears.

But, she still sat waiting for her Daddy to come home.

She did not move all afternoon from the hot sun, on the hard step, holding her band-aids and hoping he would make it feel better. 

Make her feel better.

She caught sight of his car coming around the corner and her heart leaped with joy and the tears began to flow again. 

She sobbed harder this time. 

She didn’t move other then the shaking in her shoulders and the loosening of her grip on the band-aids as he pulled his car into the driveway.

She longingly watched as he got out of his car and grabbed his briefcase from the back seat.

He turned and smiled at her.

It warmed her heart.

He then noticed the tears.

Hey, pumpkin, what’s wrong,” he gently asked as he began to climb the stairs, heading towards her.

I fell and hurt my knee and mommy wouldn’t help me,” she exhaled through the sobs.

Oh, honey, do you want me to kiss it and make it better?”

mmmm” she murmured as she nodded.

Have you been out here all day?” He wondered noticing the blood which was dry by now.

mmmm” she nodded again looking at his warm, friendly face.

He sat down his briefcase and leaned over and kissed her knee.

She smiled through the tears.

There all better,” he said. “May I put a band-aid on it?

She nodded again and handed him the band-aids.

The happiness in her heart finally began to replace the pain.

As he leaned over her, opening the band-aid he looked into her sad but hopeful eyes.

This looks like quite a spill you took. Did you crack the sidewalk when you fell? Maybe I need to go put a band-aid on it, too. Think we’ll need to replace it?”

The little girl giggled and her Daddy winked at her and kissed her gently on the forehead.

Okay, pumpkin,” he said excitedly, “now you should be in good shape.”

He reached down to pick up his briefcase.

I’m going to go in and check on your mom. You might want to check on that sidewalk.”

He patted her on the head as he began to climb the stairs toward the front door.

She didn’t turn around to look at the house but heard him open the door and then gently close it behind him.

Once he was in, she looked down at her bandaged knee and smiled.

Daddy had made it all better.

The Whispers of My Wild Heart

by laurie howland
The whispers of my wild heart are faint
Barely audible
If I strain, I can hear them
Though I can’t hear their words
I know they exist
I struggle to understand what it is they are conveying
So quietly, so meekly
Oh, Whispers how I do wish you were louder
So, that I may grasp what it is you are trying to tell me
But, alias, I cannot hear you nor understand the faint message you carry
For my heart once exuded excitement, curiosity and courage
It lead me to discover, enjoy and celebrate aspects of myself
That made me unique, joyful and purposeful
Now my heart is entrapped by the scars and bonds
Of vulnerability, shame, pain and loss
It does not sing for me
Or the passions of my soul
Instead it stands guarded 
Armored against more scars that life may produce
And joy seems foreboding
The potential for more loss is simply too much, I fear
So, the whispers of my wild heart are too soft
And maybe if I were to break from the bonds that hold me down, 
Preventing me from living
The whispers wouldn’t be so faint
And my wild heart could speak louder then all the scars
 

The Paper Always Listens

by Laurie Howland
The paper always listens
It’s always there for you
To take the weight of your words 
In whatever form you string them along
The reflection of your emotions
Your thoughts
Your truths


The paper always listens
To all the chaos running through your head
The fears
The hopes
The dreams 
It is there


The paper always listens
It never shuts you down
Tells you are rambling 
Or that your words make no sense
It accepts whatever you have to say
No matter what you need to express


The paper always listens
Even when others won’t
Or can’t
Or when you are unable or afraid to share your voice
It becomes your friend
Your confident
Your counselor
A reflection of your soul


The paper always listens
And as the words it carries are strung together
If we are quite enough
We might hear it speak back to us
In the revelation of our truths
Ones we didn’t know there there
Till the paper heard us


The paper always listens
With an ear to take in 
What we desperately need to release
For it listens at times
When the rest of world isn’t


The paper always listens 

Baggage

by laurie howland

My bags are heavy

They tend to weigh me down

I have to walk a bit slower

Stopping every once in a while to rest

I think about dropping them

Of letting them go

And starting all over with new stuff

Replacing what they hold with better things

I know I could walk much quicker without them

A little less precarious

I know I would feel so much lighter without their weight

Even a bounce in my step

Or smile back on my face

But my bags are just too heavy

Yet, I clench them 

Hold on to them for dear life

I agonize over the burden they bring me

But still I walk forward 

Allowing their heaviness to drag me down

I feel as if I will never get there

Where ever there is

A place I hope where my bags will not be needed

Yet, maybe where they will have fulfilled some purpose

I no longer seek someone to help me with their weight

Someone who would share my baggage

Make my load lighter

For they only seem to make it heavier

I realize I need to carry them myself

To figure out how to lighten them

Or simply let them go…