The Infirmary

(a dream)

At the infirmary
she received that long awaited relief
from a needle
a serum that kills
all pain
reduced
to one small injection
barely noticeable

suicide

walking slow
she still felt the heat
of that cooling shot
promising not pain
this time
but gain
a quiet rest
of nothingness
until her feet hit

home

the door she had closed
gaped wide open
and lying
on that old bed
(the one she had sold)
was that old accusation

his smile

so sweet
it sliced open
her half-healed heart
still feeling the flame
not of love but his need
to bleed
a simple wish into utter exhaustion
feeding her regret
of having tried yet again
of having pushed too hard
yet not enough
apologizing
for that sigh
or that tear
streaming into many tears
screaming
for no reason
(yet every reason)

again

old and cold
and told
to stop feeling

neglected

and slipping back
into her numbness burning
with every plea for reason
drowned out
by tight lips licking
its own damn injuries
and smacking her tongue for wanting
warmth instead of wounds
but this time

she saw

a prisoner in a small grey cell
quite smug and so stuck in his hell
not able to escape
his own deep wound
needing
to shift
the blame

again

she showed him
the keys in his hand
and how she could never free him
and suddenly
his stubbornness fell
on deaf ears and red eyes saw
those keys in stiff fingers
bent to be right
and unbending
steel bars
reflecting that old smile
slicing his own heart
as she turned
back
toward that infirmary
with a new will to live

but how?

she’s been dead far too long
the damage done
the injection
complete
suicide serum searing
through her matted weave of madness
feeling helpless again
against his words
trailing behind her
waking memories of that sweet smile
that sliced open her half-healed heart
still pumping
strains of death
through weakened veins
at the cost of life

what life?

her life
her life wanting
not his old cell flashing new paint
not his boney fingers’ rusty keys
not his arid breath impaired by booze
not his words bereft of feeling but full of fault-finding
not his smile incapable of soothing
not his heart full of harshness and regret
not his cold touch grabbing for hot love-
making
defensiveness his only guard
there in that old bed
(the one she had sold)
remains his old
cold smile
so sweet
it flees
once again
failing to lift or leave
its own dead weight

so she turned

toward life
toward that infirmary to reverse the curse
to be healed of the error
the arrow bringing death
a slow dying
that now begs to live

but

at what cost?

what is the cost of life
and who must pay it?
a girl grown down
toward the ground
cold and old
and muddy
bleeding

years

turned wrong
now aiming to turn right
to reverse this night
and to live a little more
light?

and right
this time

she awoke
without a sequel to her dream
yet knowing
it could never be
years turned round
or down
or some infirmary with death
or life serums
in syringes

she was

reminded of that One

true love still calling
the dead
from their dying

tombs!

Petra O. Hefner


A still small voice spake unto me,
“Thou art so full of misery,
Were it not better not to be?”

A second voice was at mine ear,
A little whisper silver-clear,
A murmur, “Be of better cheer”

So heavenly-toned, that in that hour
From out my sullen heart a power
Broke, like the rainbow from the shower

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1842)

Even This One

Wounded
even this one
like so many
tears
swelling
uncontrollably
adding ambush to defeat
clustering like grapes
whaling
spilling more loss
into an emptiness growing
replete with regret
recalling
how it once was
imagined.

Someone had lied
whispers in a garden
where truth was
traded
and doubting triumphed
suddenly
nakedness saw
and understood its need to hide
feeling the sun setting
the heart ablaze
with darkness
even
though it was
clinging to life lit
with each cold laugh
dripping
with its own dire need
to overcome
this dying.

Accused
even this one
like so many
lost
searching
desperately adding
qualm to questions
when she heard

The Word

Walking
Piercing
Asking

Who has told you that you were naked?
From dirt you were taken
And
To dirt you shall return
Naked
Unless you turn…

She spun
flung
at His feet
with so many questions
and all her accusers
vanished
gone
even
the biggest
boulder tumbled
turning her many scars
to sweetest perfume mixing
her flood of tears with His
love never ending
and complete.

Healed
even this one
like so many
streams
swelling
uncontrollably
adding gratitude to grace
clustering like golden
grapes
spilling more sweetness
into an emptiness growing
replete with hope
recalling
how it once was
foreshadowed.

Someone had prophesied
prayers in a garden
where fear was
traded
and love triumphed
suddenly
nakedness saw
and understood its need to hide
feeling the sun setting
her heart ablaze
with love
even
though she saw
it nailed to a cross
with each cold spike
dripping
with perfect life
to dethrone
this death.

Victorious
even this one
like so many
redeemed
swelling
uncontrollably
adding melody to music
clustering like grapes
rejoicing
spilling more gladness
into this victory sealed
replete with grace
revealing
how it once was
promised.

Petra O. Hefner

Scripture

The Call

life
that never was
yet ever remains
pretentious
touching
teases
spits
sweetness
learning
to crawl
trip
fall
gracefully
slipping
smiles
mix
man-made hues
with old tales
dyeing
man’s hair to cover
the naked
truth
whispers
fall on deaf ears
lapped by tongues
forked spears
from lesser gods
growing
more acceptable
golden calves
polished
bombs
flit
across the skies
like clouds
shifting
shadows
draped
across lush vales
skillfully carved
graves
still
fully dead
hearts
snapping
minds
bound
to be caught
sleeping
corpses
lie
unaware
of change
changing
nails to pearls
stinging tears to striking tiaras
death to life in a twinkle
of an eye and loosed ear
to hear
the call
calling
Lazarus
first
then
all
others

Petra O. Hefner

Scripture