Muse on Children in a Leprosy Colony

Lindsay Johnson, SOM ’15

First Prize Winner 2012 Gerald F. Berlin Creative Writing Award

In the night there is the quiet thrum of rain on water,
the pounding thunder of it seeping through the murmuring voices
of fractured children as they fall asleep,
and you stand on the balcony as a silhouette against the palm fronds
waiting for redemption

this is the crossroads, this moment in which you hit the end
of this path you have been following
and see the parts of yourself you’ve run from all along
but shed along the way;
this is the moment, and the rain is the music of your victory or your defeat.

Love is a siren song that can heal you now if you let it,
or you can walk away again in fear of the shadows it holds in its breath.
You can walk down the stairs away into the night,
or spend those last hours with your hands on the warm backs of babies
too young to know how badly they will someday hurt.

If you look down, there is darkness and the memory of a taste
you once had many, many years ago,
the memory of a hand on your own small back
which turned to a phantom swatch of air
as someone walked away into their own night.

This is the moment, as the rain thrums, that you must decide the music,
that you must decide the future,
that you must assume control over the setting of the sun.
Give or take, it is all you have.
Whisper it with quivering lips dried from dehydration:

This time, don’t walk away.

***
One day, it won’t be enough to swing them around to make them laugh and forget
all of the hardships in their lives. One day, the most frightening thing won’t be the
bathroom with the lights off. One day you may not be able to make them smile or
make them happy or take away their pain.
But today you can.