You are so high in the tree.If you jumpyou will live a full lifewhile falling.You will get marriedto a hummingbirdand raise beautiful part- hummingbirds. You will die of cancerin mid-air. I will not lie. It will be painful. You are a brave little boyor girl.
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You are so high in the tree.If you jumpyou will live a full lifewhile falling.You will get marriedto a hummingbirdand raise beautiful part- hummingbirds. You will die of cancerin mid-air. I will not lie. It will be painful. You are a brave little boyor girl.

-Zachary Schomburg

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Like the most of you, I was raised among people who knew - who were certain. They did not reason or investigate. They had no doubts. They knew that they had the truth. In their creed there was no guess — no perhaps. They had a revelation from God. They knew the beginning of things. They knew that God commenced to create one Monday morning, four thousand and four years before Christ. They knew that in the eternity — back of that morning, he had done nothing. They knew that it took him six days to make the earth — all plants, all animals, all life, and all the globes that wheel in space. They knew exactly what he did each day and when he rested. They knew the origin, the cause of evil, of all crime, of all disease and death.At the same time they knew that God created man in his own image and was perfectly satisfied with his work... They knew all about the Flood -- knew that God, with the exception of eight, drowned all his children -- the old and young -- the bowed patriarch and the dimpled babe -- the young man and the merry maiden -- the loving mother and the laughing child -- because his mercy endureth forever. They knew too, that he drowned the beasts and birds -- everything that walked or crawled or flew -- because his loving kindness is over all his works. They knew that God, for the purpose of civilizing his children, had devoured some with earthquakes, destroyed some with storms of fire, killed some with his lightnings, millions with famine, with pestilence, and sacrificed countless thousands upon the fields of war. They knew that it was necessary to believe these things and to love God. They knew that there could be no salvation except by faith, and through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.Then I asked myself the question: Is there a supernatural power -- an arbitrary mind -- an enthroned God -- a supreme will that sways the tides and currents of the world -- to which all causes bow?I do not deny. I do not know - but I do not believe. I believe that the natural is supreme - that from the infinite chain no link can be lost or broken — that there is no supernatural power that can answer prayer - no power that worship can persuade or change — no power that cares for man.Is there a God?I do not know.Is man immortal?I do not know.One thing I do know, and that is, that neither hope, nor fear, belief, nor denial, can change the fact. It is as it is, and it will be as it must be.We can be as honest as we are ignorant. If we are, when asked what is beyond the horizon of the known, we must say that we do not know. We can tell the truth, and we can enjoy the blessed freedom that the brave have won. We can destroy the monsters of superstition, the hissing snakes of ignorance and fear. We can drive from our minds the frightful things that tear and wound with beak and fang. We can civilize our fellow-men. We can fill our lives with generous deeds, with loving words, with art and song, and all the ecstasies of love. We can flood our years with sunshine — with the divine climate of kindness, and we can drain to the last drop the golden cup of joy.

-Robert G.

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I was in a copse of pine trees, and the pine was overpowering my scent. The pheromones of the big cat mingled with the pine and I spun around. I was smelling and looking for the flash of white, but I couldn’t see it. I grew angry and I pawed at the earth. The aroma of the soil cleansed my nose as I leaned down and sniffed deeply. I slowly closed and opened my eyes. As I looked ahead I saw something. There, further on, I had another glimpse of the large white cat. She was stopped and her hindquarters were in the air. I stared, trying to figure out what she was doing. Her forepaws and head were on the ground, but her hind was wiggling. She was next to a tree, marking it, so I slowly paced in a zigzag pattern as I walked close to her. I was being cautious because poachers had been known to employ shifters to entice real animals in the wild. She turned her head and growled at me. I took it as an invite to come closer. I ran up to her and started circling. She was an albino panther as I thought. I paced closer, breathing deep. I was in the middle of Ohio, outside of a lost cougar and a few bobcats there were no big cats here, at least not counting lycanthropes, and this creature didn’t smell like one of those. Her rump almost wagged in anticipation, and I felt my tiger body respond.I circled her, taking a swipe in her direction to see if she was going to respond negatively to me. The pink eyes followed me and she growled. I walked up to her, sniffed her face and neckline. I didn’t smell any other male on her, and I walked to her raised rump. Burying my nose in her groin I smelled deeper, and she shifted her body. I felt it before I could see it. She was shifting, changing from albino panther to human. I sat on my hindquarters as I watched. Her white fur seemed to melt from her, sliding upwards, starting with her back legs. The flesh and fur on her feet slid forward, leaving human feet and calves. It was fully fleshed, unlike some lycanthrope changes when they’re younger. The calves of her legs appeared, and slowly slid up. The panther flesh was sliding forward, slowly and methodically. Across her ass and groin, now lower back and stomach. The pheromones I smelled earlier were coming from her, the human form. I stood and started pacing behind her, and her panther head shook in a very human gesture. I stopped, fighting the desire to lean forward and lick her wetness with my large tongue. The flesh was sliding forward and as her teats turned into breasts, I growled in need. Next were her shoulders and arms, then her head and hands. As the transformation ended, there was a pile of fur and flesh lying in front of her. Her human form was beautiful; a full figured woman with long white hair, that was perfectly natural. She looked to be in her early forties, but didn’t have a line on her face that she didn’t want. In the corners of her eyes were small, but beautiful, crow’s feet, laugh lines surrounded her mouth. She laid out with her former form under her, laying on it, propped up by her elbows. She smiled with the confidence of someone who was used to being in charge. Her long hair flowed around her shoulders, framing her body. She reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t figure out who.

-Todd Misura

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AlmondineTo her, the scent and the memory of him were one. Where it lay strongest, the distant past came to her as if that morning: Taking a dead sparrow from her jaws, before she knew to hide such things. Guiding her to the floor, bending her knee until the arthritis made it stick, his palm hotsided on her ribs to measure her breaths and know where the pain began. And to comfort her. That had been the week before he went away.He was gone, she knew this, but something of him clung to the baseboards. At times the floor quivered under his footstep. She stood then and nosed into the kitchen and the bathroom and the bedroom-especially the closet-her intention to press her ruff against his hand, run it along his thigh, feel the heat of his body through the fabric.Places, times, weather-all these drew him up inside her. Rain, especially, falling past the double doors of the kennel, where he’d waited through so many storms, each drop throwing a dozen replicas into the air as it struck the waterlogged earth. And where the rising and falling water met, something like an expectation formed, a place where he might appear and pass in long strides, silent and gestureless. For she was not without her own selfish desires: to hold things motionless, to measure herself against them and find herself present, to know that she was alive precisely because he needn’t acknowledge her in casual passing; that utter constancy might prevail if she attended the world so carefully. And if not constancy, then only those changes she desired, not those that sapped her, undefined her.And so she searched. She’d watched his casket lowered into the ground, a box, man-made, no more like him than the trees that swayed under the winter wind. To assign him an identity outside the world was not in her thinking. The fence line where he walked and the bed where he slept-that was where he lived, and they remembered him.Yet he was gone. She knew it most keenly in the diminishment of her own self. In her life, she’d been nourished and sustained by certain things, him being one of them, Trudy another, and Edgar, the third and most important, but it was really the three of them together, intersecting in her, for each of them powered her heart a different way. Each of them bore different responsibilities to her and with her and required different things from her, and her day was the fulfillment of those responsibilities. She could not imagine that portion of her would never return. With her it was not hope, or wistful thoughts-it was her sense of being alive that thinned by the proportion of her spirit devoted to him."ory of Edgar Sawtelle"As spring came on, his scent about the place began to fade. She stopped looking for him. Whole days she slept beside his chair, as the sunlight drifted from eastern-slant to western-slant, moving only to ease the weight of her bones against the floor.And Trudy and Edgar, encapsulated in mourning, somehow forgot to care for one another, let alone her. Or if they knew, their grief and heartache overwhelmed them. Anyway, there was so little they might have done, save to bring out a shirt of his to lie on, perhaps walk with her along the fence line, where fragments of time had snagged and hung. But if they noticed her grief, they hardly knew to do those things. And she without the language to ask.

-David Wroblewski

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I dont believe in God. Can you understand that? Look around you man. Cant you see? The clamour and din of those in torment has to be the sound most pleasing to his ear. And I loathe these discussions. The argument of the village atheist whose single passion is to revile endlessly that which he denies the existence of in the first place. Your fellowship is a fellowship of pain and nothing more. And if that pain were actually collective instead of simply reiterative then the sheer weight of it would drag the world from the walls of the universe and send it crashing and burning through whatever night it might yet be capable of engendering until it was not even ash. And justice? Brotherhood? Eternal life? Good god, man. Show me a religion that prepares one for death. For nothingness. There's a church I might enter. Yours prepares one only for more life. For dreams and illusions and lies. If you could banish the fear of death from men's hearts they wouldnt live a day. Who would want this nightmare if not for fear of the next? The shadow of the axe hangs over every joy. Every road ends in death. Or worse. Every friendship. Every love. Torment, betrayal, loss, suffering, pain, age, indignity, and hideous lingering illness. All with a single conclusion. For you and for every one and every thing that you have chosen to care for. There's the true brotherhood. The true fellowship. And everyone is a member for life. You tell me that my brother is my salvation? My salvation? Well then damn him. Damn him in every shape and form and guise. Do I see myself in him? Yes, I do. And what I see sickens me. Do you understand me? Can you understand me?

-Cormac McCarthy

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Did you know one in three woman wind up in a mentally or physically abusive relationship?But the funny part is, it doesn't start off that way. It starts of wonderful, as close to everything you imagined something solid should be. Then little by little, the relationship changes, and you wonder if you're going crazy. You literally start to question your own sanity. One minute, the person you're in love with is kind and caring, and the next they're flipping out. The first few times you write it off, assuming they're having a bad day, but then it becomes a regular pattern of behavior. The person on the receiving end isn't oblivious to it but starts blaming themselves.Did you know mental abuse can make a victim feel depression, anxiety, helplessness, nonexistent self-worth, and despair? But that doesn't matter because your feelings don't count, and you don't realize they never will. Sometimes the abuser makes you think they count. Then you're back to thinking that you're the one who belongs in an institution, not them. But on the norm, your needs or feelings, if you actually have the fucking courage to express them-and most women don't-are ignored, ridiculed, minimized, and dismissed. You're told you're too demanding, or there's something wrong with you. Basically, you're denied the right to feel... anything.Sometimes you distance yourself from friends or loved ones. Sometimes you're not even allowed to have friends. Thought you've given this person your heart and soul, their behavior becomes so erratic, it's as if you feel like you're walking on landmines. But you continue to love them because they weren't like this when you're met, so it only seems obvious it's your fault. Then-there's the hysterical part and just how twisted this whole thing becomes-you start making excuses for their inexcusable behaviors in an effort to convince yourself it's normal. In an actual, damn convince yourself you're the one who;s made them become the monster they've turned into. A couple of ladies from an organization fighting against domestic abuse told me I allowed this to happen because 'I'm a product of my environment'. I mean really, how cliched is that? Did I ever tell you about my parents? Did I ever tell you how after my father left us, my mother continued pursuing assholes?Well, she did. She went through them like the world was going to end the next day. I get that being a single parent was hard for her. I do. But she definitely had a thing for picking up the local drunk at the nearest bar in order to help pay the next month's rent. They'd help for a while before they bounced out like my father did, but that never came without a price. She let them smack her around a bit if dinner wasn't cooked by the time they walked in the door, or if the house wasn't cleaned by the time they kicked off their filthy boots. They all looked different, but they came from a mold. Each and every single one of them was cut from the same piece of abusive wax,So, those women told me witnessing my mother's weakness drove my own, and her watching my grandfather beat my grandmother was what drove hers. They told me I was raised thinking it was okay for a man to do that to a woman. I was raised thinking self-worth was gained by catering to a man's needs at whatever cost. Ever if it meant degrading myself time and time again. But the apple can fall far from the tree. Fifty percent of children who grow up seeing that will never walk in their parents' footsteps, whether it's a boy watching his father beat his mother a young girl watching her mother get hit. But this apple landed on the tree's stump. This apple took the same path as her mother.

-Gail McHugh

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Dear Goat,How does one fall in love? Do you trip? Do you stumble, lose your balance and drop to the sidewalk, graze your knee, graze your heart? Do you crash to the stony ground? Is there a precipice, from which you float, over the edge, forever?I know I'm in love when I see you, I know when I long to see you. Not a muscle has moved. Leaves hang unruffled by any breeze. The air is still. I have fallen in love without taking step. When did this happen? I haven't even blinked.I'm on fire. Is that too banal for you? It's not, you know. You'll see. It's what happens. It's what matters. I'm on fire.I no longer eat, I forget to eat. Food looks silly to me, irrelevant. If I even notice it. But I notice nothing. My thoughts are full and raging, a house full of brothers, related by blood, feuding blood feuds:"I'm in love.""Typically stupid choice.""I am, though, I'm racked by love as if love were pain.""Go ahead. Fuck up your life. It's all wrong and you know it. Wake up. Face it.""There's only one face, it's all I see, awake or asleep."I threw the book out the window last night. I tried to forget. You are all wrong for me, I know it, but I no longer care for my thoughts unless they're thoughts of you. When I'm close to you, in your presence, I feel your hair brush my cheek when it does not. I look away from you, sometimes. Then I look back.When I tie my shoes, when I peel an orange, when I drive my car, when I lie down each night without you, I remain,As ever,Ram

-Cathleen Schine

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For JennAt 12 years old I started bleeding with the moonand beating up boys who dreamed of becoming astronauts.I fought with my knuckles white as stars,and left bruises the shape of Salem.There are things we know by heart,and things we don't. At 13 my friend Jen tried to teach me how to blow rings of smoke.I'd watch the nicotine rising from her lips like halos,but I could never make dying beautiful.The sky didn't fill with colors the night I convinced myselfveins are kite strings you can only cut free.I suppose I love this life,in spite of my clenched fist.I open my palm and my lifelines look like branches from an Aspen tree,and there are songbirds perched on the tips of my fingers,and I wonder if Beethoven held his breaththe first time his fingers touched the keysthe same way a soldier holds his breaththe first time his finger clicks the trigger.We all have different reasons for forgetting to breathe.But my lungs rememberthe day my mother took my hand and placed it on her bellyand told me the symphony beneath was my baby sister's heartbeat.And I knew life would tremblelike the first tear on a prison guard's hardened cheek,like a prayer on a dying man's lips,like a vet holding a full bottle of whisky like an empty gun in a war zone…just take me just take meSometimes the scales themselves weigh far too much,the heaviness of forever balancing blue sky with red blood.We were all born on days when too many people died in terrible ways,but you still have to call it a birthday.You still have to fall for the prettiest girl on the playground at recessand hope she knows you can hit a baseballfurther than any boy in the whole third gradeand I've been running for homethrough the windpipe of a man who singswhile his hands playing washboard with a spoonon a street corner in New Orleanswhere every boarded up window is still painted with the wordsWe're Coming Backlike a promise to the oceanthat we will always keep moving towards the music,the way Basquait slept in a cardboard box to be closer to the rain.Beauty, catch me on your tongue. Thunder, clap us open.The pupils in our eyes were not born to hide beneath their desks.Tonight lay us down to rest in the Arizona desert,then wake us washing the feet of pregnant womenwho climbed across the border with their bellies aimed towards the sun.I know a thousand things louder than a soldier's gun.I know the heartbeat of his mother.Don't cover your ears, Love.Don't cover your ears, Life.There is a boy writing poems in Central Parkand as he writes he movesand his bones become the bars of Mandela's jail cell stretching apart,and there are men playing chess in the December coldwho can't tell if the breath rising from the boardis their opponents or their own,and there's a woman on the stairwell of the subwayswearing she can hear Niagara Falls from her rooftop in Brooklyn,and I'm remembering how Niagara Falls is a city overrunwith strip malls and traffic and vendorsand one incredibly brave river that makes it all worth it. Ya'll, I know this world is far from perfect.I am not the type to mistake a streetlight for the moon.I know our wounds are deep as the Atlantic.But every ocean has a shorelineand every shoreline has a tidethat is constantly returningto wake the songbirds in our hands, to wake the music in our bones,to place one fearless kiss on the mouth of that brave riverthat has to run through the center of our heartsto find its way home.

-Andrea Gibson

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