The Middle Ages

Looking back is not the same as looking forward
You can’t see what it is you’re heading toward
All that’s visible is what’s left behind
The dreams distilled and the dreams discarded
What made you leap or left you empty hearted
In the moment and in the fullness of time
Now you see what it is that you would have changed
If only you’d known
Where you’d be and to be here is very strange
Waking up alone
In the middle ages
All along you paid close attention
To the answers when a voice asked the question
How’d you get here, where do you belong
17 makes us brave and so full of nerve
35 makes us pause but we’re undeterred
Never say die and so we push on
And some come to a place of reckoning
Try to fix what they find
I arrived with the questions still beckoning
In the back of my mind
To the middle ages
Now you bitch about your job
What’s wrong with folks today
The price of gas and milk
And the guy who begs for change
He’s camped out at the light
You hide behind your shades
And will the green to flash
To speed your getaway
You’re racing to keep up
Or just to be on time
That’s what you tell yourself
When the emptiness inside
Threatens to break out
Clouding up your eyes
You just have to pull over
We used to dread lives rendered ordinary
We always said we’d own a grander story
But the only kind worth telling somehow
Is the one about a jolt that makes you listen
That jagged lightning bolt of recognition
That love and kindness are all that matter now
And way back in the back of your mind you heard
Something getting through
Like some beautiful passage without words
Welcoming you
To the middle ages

- Mary Chapin Carpenter


The lesson in school was simple...paraphrase, don't plagiarize. Credit, credit, credit. Bibliographies were required. 

Musicians speak of their influences...and occasionally you hear it. A chord progression you've heard before, eerily similar, in a different song by a different artist. The lyrics and subject aren't at all the same, but the song...the song you've heard before. 

Are we inspired, or are we original? 


The linen sheets on our bed are ripping. It started with a small hole, near where we sit to remove our shoes and socks. There is a thirty-six inch space at the edge of our bed that is open air, with the walnut topped dresser on one side, and the ninety-degree angle that comprises the back edge of our bathroom on the other. 

At first, I paid no mind to the tiny rip. Surely it was keys, or a belt buckle, that caught on the wrong day, one of the ones where I've not made the bed. Time, as it does, wore on. We'd peel back the sheets and press our bodies firmly into the mattress, often dirty, broken. There are drops of blood on the sheet now, an injury that wasn't addressed or perhaps not even noticed, leaving it's mark. 

I noticed another hole a few days ago, the day I stood at the worktable outside, the gnats swarming my eyes and crotch and armpits, and I couldn't breathe. The air was so thick and wet, and my clothes clung to my body in that uncomfortable way that only the deepest of the South can cause, and as I worked on tiny, shiny little details, I began to gain weight. It was slow at first, and I didn't take note...perhaps it was the humidity, and the gnats, so I swatted them away and covered my sticky skin with sticky repellent and fisted a beer.

I worked, and rubbed at the cast aluminum with polish. The weight wasn't going away. I was heavier, and the air was thicker still. Was I imagining it? Was it real? Had the day heated? I clicked on the fan, one of those loud industrial ones you shout over, good for creating wind strong enough to push away the gnats and mosquitos, to dry beads of sweat and drenched brows. 

I counted the holes in the sheet tonight, as I curled in bed with my laptop and a bit of wine. Sixteen, with more on the way. The sheet is thinning, ripping open in places and exposing the mattress underneath. The threads are separating as we sleep, as the day wears on and the movement of life pushes on them, as we roll in them and reach for one another in a desperate cling. 

"They were supposed to last a lifetime," I say, a nod to the manufacturer's promise. "They were meant to be with us until we were old."