Archived: Her Withered Fingers by Samantha Byerly

I believe I could find myself seeking to live with the leaves of grass and flowers for a while.
At the base of my soul, and yours too, I feel a deep and unfeigned togetherness with nature.

It wasn’t until you led me down that narrow, dirt path through those silent woods,
That I came to terms with this true understanding of the simplicity in her beauty.

As we passed through and heard our feet below us, shuffling through the detritus,
And the soft breeze disturbing the gently fallen leaves in autumn,
And the calm song of the bird whipping around the trunks of the trees, towering over us,
Barely keeping out the fallen light of the sun, I felt the light and shade consume her divinity.
And as I looked ahead towards the end of the winding trail,
It was never tunnel vision, more like sun spots in my eyes,
These black smudges that wouldn’t seem to go away, 
As this untried view ascended before me, I saw how this placid place
Reminded me of your nearby, peaceful self. 

When we arrived at what you always called your home…
I felt this as the home that lives inside me, as well as you,
And this was the home that laid herself at the base of my soul, as well as yours.
When we stepped inside - our bodies, as well as our minds and souls - 
I felt everything around me fade away, slowly dissolving into this cool white mist,
And that gentle breeze that followed us down the winding, dirt path… finally whispered back
And that calm wind that spoke to me, as well as you, listened and understood, 
And helped in telling us that we do not live for time, and that we will exist just as much after time has passed… 
which we both found relief in hearing… 
I saw the repose ease upon your questioning, indifferent eyes - who told me this. 

You tried to be discrete in your desire for that bed of flowers, but I saw how you raced
Towards the array of miscellaneous leaves of plants, and grass, and other things,
I saw how the diversifying colors and kinds intrigued you but how you didn’t let it consume you,
You knew too well the burden of desire and how that weight can slowly devour,
And how everything feels heavy on the outside, as well as the inside, but only when 
You let it in to begin with, which is why you were meticulous in your control.

I then saw how you spoke the language of the flowers, how there were
Lady’s slipper,
Red carnation,
And a million more all in your esoteric garden - I suppose these kind entities are exactly what made it that way… 

I saw the way you admired and respected the beauty of their kind entity, which I think is what made me go back… 
I went back to pick the hibiscus, and calla, and pansies because I knew you had a gift of finding the delicate, hidden beauty in those 
thoughtful flowers. 

You were able to perceive and appreciate the beauty in those kind beings because… 
We aren’t able to perceive the beauty outside of ourselves, until we find and accept
The beauty within our mind, body, and soul… which you had found… 
It never made much sense, for when I saw you picking the willow and begonia and marigold,
I had seen your hands -
I had only looked at your hands because I wanted to learn how to create life as you did -
But when I took care in considering your worn, exhausted hands… 
All I had seen was withered fingers and harshly bruised knuckles… 
How was it that I hadn’t taken the time to notice your vexed mind and body until then?
Was it that I had only ever thought that the way I saw your soul, body, and mind… 
Was in fact more prepossessing and winsome than the thing itself?

My blissful ignorance and oblivious nature eluded me, as well as it did you… 
But in that bed of unusual flowers that sat still in your peculiar, isolated garden… 
I finally saw things as you did… 

Which is why I returned, not for you but because of you, as you had shown me what it was like
To see things out of respect for their beauty, rather than see things and think they’re beautiful because of our own filtered glance. 

Biography: My name is Samantha Byerly and, while I am still in high school, I’m currently a full-time Aims student. Not only do I hope to graduate early, but I also believe Aims is a better fit for me, as opposed to my previous high school experience. I’ve been attending Aims for nearly a full year now, and what led to the creation of this work was the poetry unit in my Introduction to Literature class, which I took my first summer semester. I’ve always greatly admired and enjoyed poetry, whether I was reading or writing, and the freedom in this final poetry project allowed me to be expressive through the art I love. The poetic form of free verse, particularly as it applies to Walt Whitman’s collection Leaves of Grass, has always been one of my favorite styles of poetry and this valuable form of poetry inspired my work, “Her Withered Fingers.” I wanted to portray important themes of mental health and internal conflict in an eccentric and ambiguous manner —  inspiration taken from the free verse style and the many incredible poets who dared to defy convention allowed me to do so within this authorial expression.