For those of you who missed the 6th issue of our journal, you would probably not have seen this beautiful image. Entitled “Emotional Portraits,” artist Michelle Nguyen uses color pencil to depict a child with captivating eyes. It is powerful and feels almost real. In describing this drawing, Michelle Nguyen says, “I went through a difficult time in my life where I turned to art for solace and peace. It’s become therapeutic for me to draw every night. After losing my father, I started doing portraits. I went through so many emotions I felt I had a hard time expressing on the surface. Art gave me a way to expose those parts of myself and in my drawings is what that displays. My portraits have become a way to tell my story.”
The 5th edition in our archives holds a delicate treasure about a love distinct from time. Written by Clarence Chapin, high school and college English composition teacher and writer of other published works found in Vestal Review and Down in the Dirt, “Grandma’s Song” is a moving piece of flash fiction and a cherished artifact in our journal.
Even after all these years, she would still see him—from time to time. Time had passed, despite how desperately she clung to the past, and he was gone—passed; past. And yet, in the pictures that lined their home—she still thought of it that way, though she lived alone—he was still there, smiling with her, smiling back at her, making her happy both then and now.
“I love you.” He reached for her hand. She reached back—there was no one there.
“I love you too,” she whispered.
Mornings were dreadful without him. The bathroom—formerly filled with playful banter, debates on events from the previous day, and briefings on the day to come—was silent and empty. She looked into the mirror. She’d once felt so beautiful. He’d made her feel that way.
He was gone.
She leaned against the vanity, propping herself up with her thin, frail arms. She closed her eyes and tried to stifle the sadness that always surfaced when she awoke and realized it hadn’t all been some terrible nightmare.
Then she heard his voice. “Are you ready yet?” When she opened her eyes, he was standing behind her. He feigned irritation, as he’d done many times before, though she noticed a smile twinging at his lips. “Are you ready?”
The question pulled her away from him. In her mind, she saw a picture reel of all the people she loved: her daughter, her sons, her granddaughter, and her grandsons. She wanted desperately to go with him—he was the only man she’d ever loved, and the only man she ever would—but what would the rest of her family do without her? Then she realized he was no longer there…
At night, alone in their bed, she spoke to him. “You aren’t gone. I see your face. I hear you breathe. Maybe you are here, or maybe I am there. I know in my heart this is a dream. I just hope I never wake. We should be together like we should’ve been.”
From the darkness, she heard his voice. “We are still together. I love you.”
“I love you too,” she whispered.
During the last stages of his illness, he couldn’t move his arms, but he’d tried to touch her, and he’d always found a way. He was gone, but somehow, he still remained.
At night, he spoke to her from the darkness. “I feel your love. I hear you sing. Maybe I am dead, or maybe we still live. I know in my heart I don’t care. I just hope that we never part. We will be together, and we always will.”
There was no answer at first. Then he heard her voice from the darkness.
“I love you.”
“I love you too,” he whispered.
“I’m ready. Take me in your arms. Take me there, to where you are.”
“Maybe,” he said, after a long period of silence, “you should take me.”
“Yes," she agreed. “I should take you.”
While we've been stuck in our new reality (thanks, Covid!), we forget that nature can be an incredibly healing force. It's early March and the spring blossoms will start appearing any day now.
Photographer David J. West published a few beautiful photographs in R7's very first issue. How do you pick just one beautiful scene? He had me at daisies--the happiest of flowers. Or, maybe they're coneflowers or asters. No matter what you call them, they make me happy. Is it spring yet?
In Mr. West's own words, "There is nothing more amazing, in my opinion, than watching the morning sunrise surrounded by wildflowers." I couldn't agree more.
"Morning has Broken" by David J. West
View more of Mr. West's gallery via Route 7 Review's Issue 1.