Perchance to dream

(The following is an excerpt from a longer piece.)


The Daily News

Man Drowns Attempting to Save 16 Year Old Girl

June 24, 2019

The U.S. Coast Guard Official said Salvatore was at South Beach when the young female dove into the water with a group of friends.

When she began having trouble, a group of people including Salvatore went in to get her…



After my death, our move was swift.

We packed our dust-covered instruments,

wrapped newspaper around our dusty photos,

tucked mom’s wishing stones, smooth and

unblemished into our pockets.


Our old lives packed into

cardboard boxes, we climbed

into a twenty five dollar U-Haul

and drove five miles away from the Lake.


For dad the move was a feeble attempt

to grasp a memory of a time long


before, when he and mom were not rooted,

where he and mom drifted on a whim

finding music wherever they landed.


For me, it was shedding

the skin of sorrow in the layer of life.


Dad said this move would be a fresh start

“We will figure it out as we go, Gracie.”


So …

We left the algae ridden-lake,

tried to leave our pain behind.


But some pain

you can’t escape.


We didn’t run far enough

in our desperate flight.


One town over is hardly escaping.


New old town, new old school

no new memories forged here.

New day, new start

and dad hasn’t crawled out of bed.



that I expected anything else.


Most likely he’ll still

be lying in supine silence

at the end of our new day.



the floor will be squeaking,

under his serious footsteps, as he paces

and swears about “the damn leaking toilet” —

jiggling the handle didn’t work —



“the damn bills” — wasn’t anything I

could do about that either.


So, maybe this wasn’t such a great new start.

Sometimes life is just darkness.

Imagine This

I was dead — cold blue lips,

no breath.  Until … someone expelled

water from my lungs, breathed life

into me, oxygenated my brain.


But … before that breath,

I was dead. Sucking water, sinking

in thrashing panic, no question,

I was dead.


Carbon dioxide accumulating

in my body, promoted an involuntary

breath in water, an involuntary breath

that would KILL  me.


Water, reaching my airways,

induced the cough and sputter,

triggering my throat to spasm.


Yes, I was dead.

Until… life touched me,

plucked me from algae tainted death,

plucked me from the cold cloying waters.


And now…


I  live.

My life traded for another.


I’m sorry.

I didn’t mean to.


Now, life pulses through me

even though inside I am dead

and my blue spider vein arms tell

another story.

No one knows

in the night stillness,

to shatter my fog,

sharp edges and shiny points

slice my skin,

bring focus

and a sigh of sound.



Falling for Grace

Gavin tells me I have a type. It is always the wayward, lost ones I’m into. I can’t deny it. I do have a type, the quietly beautiful ones who don’t want to be noticed. Well, at least that was how it always seemed to start out. When I see her leaning against the doorframe, peering in cautiously, her dark hair falling into her face, her eyes red rimmed from crying, okay, I’m intrigued and yes, Gavin is right as hell; I have a type.

I fell for Grace in English class. I fell hard. She mostly kept to herself, drawing in her notebook, on her hands, on scraps of paper that she leaves behind. I know that she loves books and music because she always hums quietly when she thinks no one is listening, snippets of Imagine Dragons, Fall Out Boy and Cage the Elephant. She speaks softly but always thoughtfully when called upon in English class. It was when she referred to Romeo and Juliet as sad teens torn between their desires and expectations that I first started to really listen.

We weren’t even reading Romeo and Juliet. We were reading some nonfiction article about teens and hormones. Yet, she pulls this reference out of nowhere, and it means something. Mrs. Carter smiled and nodded, asked Grace to elaborate, and Grace does just that but not before she pauses, smiles, just a small half smile that turns up just part of her lip. “Well,” she leans forward, like she has a secret to tell, “Just think about it. It’s like Romeo and Juliet were in some hormonal fog that they had no control over. In the article, it says that teenagers’ brains are going through structural changes as well, so really I doubt Romeo and Juliet really had any control over their desires. They were doomed because they were never going to make their families happy, and they couldn’t change their biology. Expecting a person  to stop loving  and desiring someone because they aren’t from the right stock,  is like expecting the tide not to come in. It is gonna happen even if you build a dam. They weren’t meant to be together.”

“Thank you, Grace. Great reference,” said Mrs. Carter as Grace completed her thought and a few other kids murmured agreement.

And now when Grace speaks in class I cling to every word she says because she makes sense. She looks at the world differently, more deeply, maybe? I’m convinced there is something more to Grace and her half-smile.

Today, I notice her clutching a paper and wonder why she hasn’t just gone in to see Mrs. Carter. What is she waiting for?  Is she afraid?  Worried? Embarrassed?  I feel certain that Mrs. Carter would help her out if Grace only gets the courage to go in. I want to give her a nudge, give her the courage.

I’m just about to approach and give her the encouragement she needs when she glances my way and smiles, a sad smile that says she doesn’t want to do what she is going to do. I nod at her and she lifts her chin, bolsters herself up and enters. Moments later, Mr. Miller emerges from the room looking flustered. Hmmm, strange…

I hang back in the hall, listening to the chatter in the halls and wait for Grace to re-emerge. Eventually she does, looking slightly less lost but still very far away. She brushes past everyone in the hall like wind, not pausing to say hello or “excuse me” to anyone and not glancing my way. Clearly in her own world, clearly uninterested in me. I’m curious about Grace. I wonder what makes her sing softly when she thinks no one is listening but, mostly, I wonder why she seems so sad.





Dad’s September silence is punctuated

with rage


I arrive home to a broken chair,

a hole in the closet door,

shards of glass on the floor


Dad slack drunk on the couch

“Accidents” he says.


What he means is accidents

of life spark and ignite his

flames and just as quickly

as he ignites, he is dampened

by his deluge of grief


I understand his fury & his pain

I feel it too as I slush through school,

just surviving



By Tamara Belko