Too-Close Crimson Trees…Fear

“A word and photo prompt to get your creativity flowing this weekend.  Use the prompts separately or together.  Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like.  Word Prompt Fear”

Sammi Cox, author/photo


I still see, feel it as a grove of too-close

Dark crimson trees, their airless heat singeing,

Imprisoning me…blood’s black-red fear

Of this stranger, my mother, who openly

Despised me; controlled me with consuming

Fright that taught me much.

Striving to be “unseen and not heard”,

I learned to take breaths oh-so-shallow;

To move without apparent motion, static as

Wallpaper; to weep without wails; clench my

Jaw against unbidden words which would be

Deemed impertinent—no matter their

Innocence, ignorance, or truth.

To be afraid of one who gave you life—

All day, each day, and every night—short-circuits

Brain’s wiring, melts insulators, so that nothing

In the world is perceived as safe, trustworthy.

Mental-emotional abuse, neglect of nurture

Burn unseen scars…with long-term ramifications. 

They leave a child stunted—no sense of true identity,

Self-confidence.  The ability to learn is compromised,

Followed by swelling fear of responsibility:

How could I concentrate to excel in school;

Learn social skills to be accepted by peers;

Or ever drive a car; maintain employment to

Support myself; choose a stable, loving spouse;

Or even imagine having children myself?

The fear, and its accompanying hurt never left me. 

To a significant degree, I yet live in the too-close,

Suffocating red trees…unable to walk out.

I still feel the full-body-quaking terrors:

Sometimes when wind blows through branches,

I hear her shark-teeth-tearing words—barbed

Voice that stings like hailstorm on bare skin.

Sometimes she echoes in the thunder…death did

Not muffle her…she returns some nights, in dreams.

Faith is my comfort—but it doesn’t erase,

Eradicate cruel ghost of my mother.


The red leaves glow in September, God’s

Reminder that He selected that season

For my birth; intended it to be

Bright-beautiful celebration of promise.

And for that reason, His creative love unique,

He surrounds me daily with His song*

That while autumn leaves fall, I will not;

I’ll overcome winter’s sleep, be resurrected

To see glorious Cherry Blossoms in spring;

Hear wind chimes dance in summer trees…

My heritage assured, God’s precious daughter,

I’ll gleam like a field of forget-me-knots, sapphire’d.

©Jael Sook, 2017 All rights reserved.

New American Standard Bible
*You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.  Psalm 32:7

Psalm 31:20
You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.

Psalm 9:9
The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble;

Psalm 91:1
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

Psalm 119:114
You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word.

Psalm 121:7
The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul.

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Topaz River Abduction  Click the link to participate in this challenge.

Prompt titles—choose one or more below and compose a poem or story. Multiple submissions are welcome as well as submissions containing multiple titles.

The Girl Who Became a Bear; The Grinning Man; Delilah Blue and the Faulty Timepiece; The Crowd Whisperer; The Reversal of Nothing; A Welcome Betrayal; Prophetess in Silk; The Coven of Controversial Virtues; Shadows in the Water; The Minutiae of Stars. 

Amid the shadows in the water of Topaz River

Are reflected the minutia of stars, and mysteries

Unsolved—including those yet to surface, for probing…

It had been a summer full of enigmatic characters

Slipping in and out of our town—and I would become

One of them, known as the Crowd Whisperer

Because I was acquainted with some of the principals.

Sharmalea Cruze was young, simpleminded, and fanciful.

Folks spoke of her as The Girl Who Became A Bear—for

Sharmalea insisted she could shape-shift into a silver-tip bruin.

Every Halloween she dressed in a tattered pink tutu,

And growled through a fanged bear mask.

Another denizen was Delilah Blue, older than anyone knew;

Usually pleasant, most likely suffering the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Poor Delilah was the target of teenagers who thought it great

Sport to ask her for the time, just to hear what crazy answer

She might offer as she peered at the faulty timepiece pinned

Above her lacy breast pocket or calico apron’s bib.

And there was the Grinning Man, who made his meager living

As a local handyman.  Considered basically harmless,

Some were put off by his toothless mumbling—and that he

Gave his name as either “Abe” or “Jake”, depending on his mood.

The Prophetess was well-respected by all—men and women

Paused when she’d float through Main Street’s courtyard

Trailing lengthy silk scarves of sapphire, saffron, cerise…

Or any brilliant hue shot through with silver threads.

When the Dark Thing happened everyone expected

Her to divine its meaning and resolution—but even if she

Had such revelation, would she be bound to share it?

The fundamentalists deemed her gift one of what they

Referred to as, the Coven of Controversial Virtues

For prophecy might well be blessing, or curse; and

Who’d really want to hear about the latter?

The day the Dark Thing happened began with a

Periwinkle dawn, pretty as you please—but sepia storm

Clouds rumbled as the alarm rang out:  Emeraude and

Henry’s new baby was missing—just 10 days old, it was.

The townsmen suspended normal work, explored high

And wide; while the sheriff queried “Abe-Jake” and anyone

Else among the odd residents, and peculiar visiting strangers.

One week after Topaz River had already been searched,

The Prophetess intoned, “go back to the riverbank

On a Sunday afternoon”.

And I, the crowd whisperer, had begun to feel uncomfortable

Stirrings; neighbors were murmuring speculations,

Asking one another if they’d seen “so and so” lately.

Finding the baby was a tragic reversal of nothing; it didn’t

Restore her to her parents, bring her back to life.

When the babe was discovered in the arms of Sharmalea,

The bear-girl sat rocking its tiny corpse, and

Staring into the ripples of gurgling Topaz River.

Sorrow lay like fog upon the town.

Emeraude wept a bit at her child’s funeral, and

Told all who expressed the least curiosity that she’d

Forgiven Sharmalea the abduction.

No one believed murder was part of it.

Sharmalea had long yearned for a baby of her own, envied

Emeraude—who’d had 10 children.  It must have been

An accidental suffocation, possibly dehydration.

I suppose only Prophetess and I know the sad secret

Emeraude confessed to her priest…that Sharmalea

Taking the baby was a welcome betrayal.

A tenth child was simply one too many for the exhausted

Mother, and financially burdened father.

…So maybe they’d made it easy for the bear-girl’s

Love-hungry heart to steal.

The shadows in the water likely hold the full tale.

©Jael Sook, 2017 All rights reserved.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Why the Silver Violin Plays  Look at the titles below and choose one or more to construct a poem or story around:  Wish Breaker; Undisclosed Pathos; The Silver Violin; Children of the Wondering Moon; The Haunting of Cora Applebaum; Whispers in the Willow Trees; Psychic Chasms; When Fish Runaway; The War Inside of Us; The Town that Went Missing.

I used 9 of the 10 titles—click the link above to participate in this prompt.

On silken charcoal nights

The silver violin plays

For children of the wondering moon,

Whose whispers in the willow trees

Are still said to be heard in

The town that went missing.

What melody does the violin play,

And what do the children whisper?

It is a sterling song of untarnished sorrow;

Deep-grieved mourning and remembrance for

Everyone, everything lost…and undisclosed pathos.

Victimized by cruel, neglectful wish breakers,

The children whisper about their abandoned hearts;

Their small words a jittering expression of

Fatal psychic chasms, endlessly echoing.

How do I know these things, from what

Or whom was it revealed to me?

A woman left me her letters:

“The Haunting of Cora Applebaum”.

Cora lived in that gone-town—

She knew and loved the children well;

She chronicled unspeakable events

Allowed by despicable adults…parents

Who never should have been.

Her final letter ends with a warning:

“Gird your soul, be vigilant and pray

The Lord God’s mercies and strength—

For we all fight the war inside of us”.

On silken charcoal nights

The silver violin plays for me…

Does it play for you?

©Jael Sook, 2017 All rights reserved.

Image credit: Pixabay

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