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Portents



The First Sign:
At night, a good night,
one of those nights
where sleep comes easy.
You slide in between
the sheets and comforter,
and Morpheus claims you
before your head hits the pillow.
The dream unfolds,
like fog rolling back
from a cold, still lake.
Alone, I walked through a field,
gently rolling hills,
some flowers,
a few trees.
I walked along, aimlessly,
and suddenly realized
I was walking along a path.
At first, it was nothing more
than the grass being beaten down
by many feet before mine,
not that I could see any sign
of other’s having been here.
But as I walked along,
the path became more substantial,
becoming a grassless dirt path,
then gravel, then cobblestone.
I followed alone this evolving path,
somehow certain that its destination
held something important
for me to see.
I walked on, my intuition growing,
something exciting was in store,
slowly, a glow began to grow
on the horizon,
like a muted sunrise
beautiful but understated.
As my heartbeat increased with my anticipation,
I closed in on the glow,
no longer on the horizon
but nearer, within reach,
almost too bright to look at,
but not painful.
At last I reached the glow,
and as I walked into that
ethereal effulgence
I passed through it,
emerged somewhere different,
like a baby being born.
I seemed to be in a large chamber,
high arched ceiling above me,
the smooth curved walls,
nearly featureless,
save for three doors
spread out on the curved wall
before me.
In the center of the chamber,
a large white table
or altar.
Behind it, a woman,
her hair and face
seemed to shift,
to change,
every time I glanced away.
This made her always fresh and new,
and would have frightened me
had I been in the waking world,
but in the dream, I just found her
alluring.
I opened my mouth
but no words came out,
I was mute.
She looked at me
with such kindness in her eyes,
the way a mother looks
at a favorite child.
She spoke,
and her voice was both tender,
and so powerful
that it reverberated in my bones.
“This is the first of several signs you are to be given.”
She gestured at the path I had followed,
“This sign is the truth.
The path behind you is your life,
as you have lived it to this day.”
She glanced around the chamber.
“This is the point of decision
and indecision.”
“These are the ways your life can go from this point”
as she pointed to the three doors,
and then her glance, heavy this time,
rested back on me.
“It’s all up to you.”
I woke,
drenched in sweat,
heart beating in my throat.
I waited for the dream to fade,
as dreams tend to do,
but this one remained,
indelibly printed on my mind.
I was at a crossroads,
poised on the brink of choice,
with more signs on the way.
I shuddered,
who was I to deserve signs?
And what did I have
yet in store?


The Second Sign:
An average day,
out running errands,
picking up a few groceries.
Nothing more on my mind
than what else
I needed to buy.
Wrapped up in my own thoughts,
then I saw her…
She was standing on the sidewalk
just outside of the bookstore,
my favorite place to shop.
It wasn’t that she was beautiful,
although she was stunning,
but she caught my eye
and drew my attention.
She was just standing there,
motionless,
like the most exquisitely carved statue.
I had no misconceptions
about my appeal to women,
minimal at best,
but somehow,
simply by standing there
she made me want to approach her.
I didn’t, of course.
I am many things,
but not a masochist,
and no fan of rejection.
I went into the store,
grabbed a few books,
usually I spent an hour or more,
examining book after book,
but today, the first three books to catch my eye
were bought, all within five minutes.
When I left the store, she was gone.
Both relieved and disappointed
I continued on, the next stop,
hardware store, or maybe bakery,
wherever it was, she was there.
Again, she was motionless,
just standing, waiting,
but this time, she looked at me,
our eyes met, she smiled.
I smiled back, suddenly more self-conscious
than ever before.
I turned to flee,
back to the safe haven
of my car, and my loneliness.
Before I could take a step
her hand was on my shoulder,
she turned me around
and said…
“This is wisdom.”
She gestured at the crowd of people,
people hurrying past us
seemingly without noticing us.
“These people are trying to fill
a deep longing in their soul.
Some with food, some with items,
others with casual sex or drugs.
None of them feel fulfilled,
few of them even feel happy.”
Then she pointed out one woman,
her clothes were old,
starting to fray.
She got out of an old car,
more rust than metal,
clearly a woman struggling
to make ends meet.
Yet, as she neared the store
she was approached by a panhandler,
she reached into her purse
and handed him a five-dollar bill,
before returning to her car,
smiling.
“This woman gave her last five dollars away
to someone,
someone less fortunate than herself.
She received no thanks or reward,
she couldn’t even
make her intended purchase,
despite all of that, she is happy.”
She let go of my shoulder,
but before I could turn back to her, she spoke,
her voice suddenly heavy
with either exhaustion, or sadness.
“Here ends the lesson.”
I turned to see what was wrong with her,
but there was nobody there.
I finished my errands and returned home,
her words reverberating in my brain,
trying to understand
what I was supposed to learn from this.
I kept thinking of a bible quote,
Mark, or Luke maybe,
something about what it would profit a man
to gain the world, if he lost his soul in the bargain.
That seemed close, but not quite there.
As I was putting my purchases away,
my mind still on the strange events of the day,
I began to ask myself…
“Does this thing make me happy,
does it improve the world somehow?”
I felt ashamed when I couldn’t answer yes
to most of the things I bought.


The Third Sign:
Many months later,
I had almost convinced myself
that none of this had actually happened.
After all, I was nobody,
just an average person
trying to get through the days
and nights of my life
without screwing everything up.
Who was I kidding,
signs from above, for me?
I clearly had been lacking sleep,
or maybe lacking vitamins,
something had made me imagine
all of that, maybe a brain tumor.
“It’s not a tumor!”,
a deep voice said
behind me, nearly making me pass out.
I was home alone, I knew that,
there couldn’t be a voice behind me!
“Then turn around.”,
the voice said, where no voice could be.
I turned,
behind me was a man,
one that couldn’t be there.
I knew my doors were locked,
that nobody was in the house except me,
yet there he was.
He seemed average in every way,
except for his eyes,
which were the tarnished silver
or storm clouds on the horizon.
I opened my mouth to speak,
to tell him to get out,
but before I got a word out
he reached out and put a finger to my lips.
“This is confirmation, accept it.”
He continued, letting his hand
move away from my face.
“You can’t deny the signs you have been shown,
you were chosen for a reason.
You may feel unworthy,
maybe you are,
but you were chosen.”
The couch was next to me, so I sat down,
had nothing been there,
I would have sat on the floor,
all the strength had left me.
“What do I do?”
I asked, pleading for direction.
“The signs are yours,
to do with what you wish.
They are your gift
and they are your burden,
for better or worse
it is all up to you.”
With that, he vanished
before my eyes.
There I was, either in possession
of a half-understood prophecy,
or profoundly disturbed.
I sat, for what seemed like hours,
unsure of what to do,
of what to think.
I was a nothing person
with no skills or talents.
Wait, I did have one talent,
or at least a hobby
that I enjoyed.
I like to write poems.
With that, it all fell into place,
I would write about my experience.
Write about it, with brutal honesty
and as much detail as I could remember.
And after writing about it,
I would post the poem,
with any luck, someone that can relate
to the experience I had, would read it.
Someone might understand
what had happened
and be able to do something
positive.
Maybe more than one person,
it seemed possible,
the signs I had been given
could be meaningful
to several people.
Maybe that was the point,
the reason I was given the signs,
not to guide me on a quest
but rather to inspire a poem
that might guide others.
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Submitted by ToddVanisacker on March 28, 2021

7:47 min read
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Todd Vanisacker

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    "Portents" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 10 Aug. 2022. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/96795/portents>.

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