These pages will showcase some of my writing – either in poetry or short stories. I hope you enjoy.
The Father’s Eyes
I gaze in the mirror with fleshly eyes
The enemy’s voice resounds in a cry
“You’re not much to look at – a beauty you’re not
You’ll never achieve much – with what you’ve got
You’re too insecure and fear what others think
How can you make a difference
In this world that you live ?
“Look again”, comes the voice of my Father above
“Look again at yourself, but look through My eyes
Look again and you will see – the enemy lies”
So I look at myself and say “God what do You see?
What am I like Lord? – what will I be?”
“You are an ambassador of the Most High God
Part of the Royal Priesthood – a beautiful bride
You’re radiant and fragrant to those around
You’re a jewel in a million – of you I am proud”
“I’ve moulded and made you to be someone great
Your life has a purpose, a great destiny awaits
So when you see your reflection – don’t hesitate
But thank me for what you see – I never make a mistake”.
Deep, dark eyes peered out of a grimy face and his matted hair hung limply on his head. He watched the ship intently, waiting for his moment.
This was Charlie – that’s all he knew about himself. He had no last name that he could recall and it had been given to him by the people who had run the workhouse he had lived in. Charlie had no one in the world. He had been alone for as long as he could remember. The cruel matrons at the workhouse loved to taunt him by saying that no one wanted him – not even his mother who had left him abandoned on the workhouse steps in a cardboard box.
That had always impacted Charlie – not the fact that he had been abandoned, but the fact that he had been left in a cardboard box. That totally squashed any idealistic dreams that his mother had actually loved him but had been unable to keep him for noble reasons; it clearly shouted that he was worthless and meant nothing to her.
That was eleven years ago and since then he had decided that being abused in the workhouse was worse than being alone. One night he had waited till everyone had retired for the night and then he had quietly snuck out of his rickety little bed. He wouldn’t miss the place or the people – no one cared about him as a person and he had nothing of value to take with him. He had managed to save some bread crusts from the last few meals he had had, and he wrapped them in the thin cotton blanket that was supposed to keep him warm at night. That was the last time he had seen the workhouse as he made his way out of the smog-filled city into the inky black night. He had had no idea where he was going and he hadn’t really cared. How does one have a dream or a vision when there is no hope or direction in life? Any dreams he had had, had been snatched away from him or squashed by others.
He had wandered for days through the countryside looking for the next town and his next meal. He had managed to forage for food in farmers’ fields – survival was nothing new to him as he had lived his whole life that way. He knew one thing only: he could only count on himself.
Charlie knew nothing of love, comfort or affection – he was a true orphan in every sense of the word.
So now he found himself in a small seaside town and he stood staring at the ship in front of him. He allowed himself to hope for just a minute as his dark eyes scanned the water and his mind drifted to the thought of a new start in a new land. This ship was sailing for America and he had heard the matron’s at the workhouse talking about this new exciting land that everyone saw as a great opportunity. The land of abundant wealth and promise is what they called it.
It was in that moment that Charlie knew he had to get on that boat, that his very destiny depended on it.
“Move out the way lad,” a gruff voice shouted.
Charlie was jolted out of his reverie and the reality of his situation returned to him.
He quickly scuttled out of the way of the cart that was laden with goods to be loaded onto the ship. He looked longingly at the boat once more and with shoulders drooping he walked away from the dock toward the town. How could he get passage on a ship like that? It was impossible as he had no money and was just a poor beggar of a boy. He had always been told that he was worthless and unwanted and his mind fully believed this to be the truth.
“Hey boy!” a young woman called to him from the doorway of the local inn. She had been observing the sad young boy with the hopeless eyes for awhile on the side of the dock.
Charlie looked up nervously at her, expecting to be chastised, as he was used to from experience. She was dressed in a checked dress with an apron tied around her waist and her fiery red hair cascaded over her shoulders and down her back. She was the most beautiful thing Charlie had seen in a while.
“Do you need a bite to eat,” she asked kindly. Her eyes were warm and inviting. Charlie quickly looked over his shoulder, convinced that she must be talking to someone else.
“Go around to the back of the inn,” she said, “I will let you in the kitchen.”
Charlie needed no further invitation, the rumbling of his stomach was more than enough incentive to move his tired legs. Soon he was ensconced at a table with a bowl of steaming soup and some crusty bread. He did not take time to look up at the young woman but ate hungrily. She quietly watched him as he ate.
“Thank you Miss,” Charlie muttered shyly when he had finished.
“I see you haven’t eaten in a while,” she observed.
“No Miss, I have been out on the road many days.”
“What is your name and where are your parents?” she asked kindly.
“I am Charlie and I have no parents Miss,” he answered jutting his chin out defiantly. He would not go back to the workhouse. He would rather be dead than set foot in that place again.
The look of defiance on his face was not lost on her. She had seen children like Charlie before and her heart ached for him.
“What are your dreams?”she asked him.
Charlie was surprised at the question – no one had ever asked him what he wanted.
“People like me don’t get to dream,” he replied firmly, “we only get to live out nightmares.”
“Everyone gets to dream Charlie,” she said, “only sometimes we have our dreams stolen from us by the worries of life and the hard times we go through. Who has stolen your dreams?”
Charlie felt a lonely tear trickle down his cheek and he angrily wiped it away with his hand. He wouldn’t cry now, not in front of this woman.
“You can revive those dreams Charlie, if you only believe that you deserve to dream and be happy,” she said. “The choice is yours.”
Charlie’s eyes flashed angrily at her, “What do you know,” he shouted at her, all his pent up frustration and rage coming out. “I didn’t choose to be alone, to have nothing and to have no dreams. That is the lot I have been dealt and there is nothing I can do about it,”
“Oh but there is always something you can do about it,” she continued calmly. “We may not choose our lot but we can always change our destiny. You just need to know who you are Charlie and one day you will. Just follow your dreams and you will see what I mean.”
Charlie dropped his head in his arms in resignation. How could she understand how alone he felt?
When he looked up again she was gone. He could not believe she had disappeared. Had he imagined the whole thing? No, his belly was full and he felt satisfied so it must have been real.
Charlie left the inn and wondered where he should go to. The young woman’s voice echoed in his mind – follow your dreams, but what were his dreams? For so long he had dared not to dream as life always came back with brutal reality and crushed those dreams leaving him shattered once again. If he was to have a dream it would be to get to America and that ship was his only hope. Right then, Charlie made up his mind. He decided to wait for dark and to stow away on the boat. He knew he had nothing to lose as there was nothing waiting for him here – no mother or father who would be worried about him. Even the workhouse would not care that he had run away – he was just another mouth to feed.
He woke with a start. He had been hiding behind some crates for a few hours and he must have dozed off. For a split second he felt terrified that the boat had sailed without him. He peered cautiously over the crates and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the ship in the moonlight. All was quiet and he could hear the waves lapping the side of the boat. Quickly and with the stealth of a cat he darted across the dock and climbed the gang plank. It was not going to be easy as the walkway would be guarded by a sailor to prevent thieves from looting the ship before it sailed. Charlie crept quietly up the plank keeping his eyes open for the watch. Eventually he spotted the man. He was walking up and down the deck looking out into the town and wishing he were in the cosy inn with a large ale in his hand. The music and laughter from the inn came in waves as the sailors enjoyed their last night on land. It was while the sailor was distracted with the thoughts of the inn that Charlie quickly scampered aboard the boat. It was as though a mouse had crept on board and the watchman did not even notice Charlie.
Charlie made his way as far as he could from the sailor. He needed to get down to the hold where there would be the least chance of being discovered but that alone would be tricky. His eyes scanned the ship to see where the hold was. Eventually he spotted a hatch that surely would lead to the hold. He timed his descent into the hold with absolute precision. It was vital for him that no one see or hear him or he would be tossed off the ship and his dream would be gone. Charlie felt his confidence grow as he made his way through the cargo in the hold and he found a spot behind two large crates that was fairly well concealed. He hunted for some sacking or canvas that he could use to make a makeshift bed. His body was extremely weary after the long days of travel and he yearned to lie down and rest. Before long he fell into a deep sleep.
The rolling motion woke him, and for a minute Charlie could not remember where he was. It took him a few seconds to realize that he was aboard the ship and then it dawned on him that they must have set sail as he could feel the movement of the ship under his body. He had done it – he was going to America. He had to stop himself from shouting out a triumphant call, but he smiled to himself with a self-satisfied smile. His dreams were beginning.
Days passed and the rolling motion that was comforting to Charlie and the promise of his dreams soon became detestable to him. He felt nauseous most of the time and he had to hide often when sailors came down to the hold to get food supplies for the day. He had to be careful that he only took a little food at a time so as not to be discovered. He wondered how long the journey would take and he desperately yearned for the fresh sea air to blow on his face and the spray of water to wash over him. That night Charlie could bear it no longer. He didn’t realize that one has to sacrifice and sometimes endure hardship to reach your dreams. He waited till it was dark and the ship was silent. He knew he was risking much but he had to get on the deck just for a brief moment so that he wouldn’t lose his sanity and to give him strength for the rest of the journey.He crept carefully up to the deck, his eyes adjusting to the night darkness. He slipped out onto the deck and made his way along the side of the ship to the life raft. He quickly climbed inside the little boat and breathed a sigh of relief. It felt so good to feel the wind on his face and he breathed the crisp fresh air as though it was the last air he would ever receive. He lay there far longer than he should have, but the thought of going back down to that hold suffocated him.
“What have we here?” came a gruff and slightly inebriated voice. Charlie froze and his blood ran cold.“Looks like a little rat has been hiding amongst us,” the voice continued sarcastically. “Hey Jack, get over here and see what I’ve found.”
A second sailor joined the first and they eyed Charlie out like cats about to pounce on a poor defenseless mouse.
“Well, well,” the man called Jack said, “seems we have a stowaway. The captain will have you beaten for this boy.”
“Aye,” the other sailor replied gleefully, “and he might even feed you to the sharks.”
Charlie felt terrified. Again his dreams had been shattered and he silently cursed himself for being stupid enough to come on deck. He had thrown away his own dreams for lack of wisdom and patience.
The bigger sailor scooped Charlie up in his arms and out of the life boat. He held on to Charlie as he wriggled and squirmed.
“There’s nowhere to run boy,” he laughed.
They made their way down to the Captain’s quarters and Charlie trembled within. He knew the Captain would be very angry as each journey was planned with precision and the amount of food calculated carefully. He determined that he would do everything to please the captain and would try not to antagonize him further. He imagined the Captain to be a strict disciplinarian who ran a tight ship and Charlie was not looking forward to his wrath.
The knock on the Captain’s door brought him back to reality again and he braced himself for the encounter.
As they entered the cabin, Charlie could not help but gaze around the room, a mixture of curiosity and fear written on his face. At last he turned his gaze to the man in front of him.
The captain was tall and had a commanding presence that frightened Charlie. His face demanded respect and he saw how the sailors tried to curry favour with their captain. This man must surely be as fearsome as they had said. Each sailor tried to tell the story and eventually the captain waved them away impatiently.
“Thank you,” he said dismissively, “I will take care of this now.”
The men quickly left the cabin, disappointed at the Captain’s lack of response and praise for their good effort.
Charlie nervously shifted his feet and looked at the floor. He was waiting for the stinging slap of a hand across his face for stowing away. It never came. Perhaps the captain was waiting for him to look up so that he could really inflict damage. After what seemed like a long time Charlie looked up, his curiosity getting the better of him. To his surprise the captain was not standing over him but was seated at his desk and was poring over his maps.
Charlie was uncertain what to do next. He hadn’t expected the Captain to react this way – he had expected wrath and fury at his actions.
“I’m sorry Sir,” Charlie muttered quietly, “I know you must be very angry with me.”
“What gives you that idea?” the Captain asked raising his left eyebrow inquiringly.
“Well….” Charlie stammered, “your men seemed to think that you would beat me or throw me to the sharks.”
The captain let out a deep laugh from his belly that took Charlie by surprise. It wasn’t a sarcastic or unpleasant laugh, quite the contrary, it was a laugh of joy and humour.
“The men don’t really know me, boy. They expect me to be something I am not, and unfortunately for them they actually miss out on what I am really like,” he added seriously.
“What do you mean?” Charlie asked.
“Have you ever believed something about yourself that makes you behave or act in a certain way even though you may not actually be that person?” the captain asked.
Charlie thought hard about himself. He had always believed what he had been told by the workhouse matrons – that he was useless and worthless and would never amount to anything. He had believed it and had lived a life of hopelessness and despair as a result.
“Yes, I think I know what you mean,” Charlie said.
“Well,” replied the captain, “the same thing applies when we look at others. How we perceive them will impact how we treat them. This can be quite sad if we are wrong about them, because then we miss out on how they can add value to our lives.”
“So your men think and expect you to be mean. Why is that?” Charlie asked tentatively.
“Years ago I was falsely accused of crimes I did not commit, and was sentenced to death,” the captain said matter of factly.
“What happened?” Charlie asked incredulously.
“They tried to hang me and would have succeeded had a higher intervention not saved me,” the Captain stated with fervour. “They left me for dead after the hanging, but miraculously I did not die- someone was clearly watching over me that day.”
Charlie looked at the Captain with admiration and wonder in his eyes. “Didn’t they try to kill you again?”
“They were too fearful to try again,” the Captain said, and that is how I got the reputation of being invincible and some believe that I am still that man that was accused of horrific crimes. I never was that man in the first place. Yes, I made some mistakes in my years of Captaincy, but nothing like they accused me of.”
“So your men never step out of line then!” It was not a question but more of an observation or statement.
“Yes, that’s right. They work hard and try to please me thinking it will give them favour and privilege, but actually they miss out on who I really am and so they only experience a certain amount of freedom on this ship,” the Captain said wistfully.
“That’s quite sad,” Charlie said.
“Why did you stow away on this ship?” the Captain asked Charlie.
Charlie flushed, the attention now back on him. “I just knew that this boat was my last hope, and that if I didn’t catch it, I would die.”
“What about your family?” the Captain asked watching the boy’s face carefully.
“I have never had a family,” Charlie said, his voice catching in his throat. It was a difficult admission to make to this man, and his heart ached as he said it. He had never admitted it to himself but it hurt him deeply within to know that he was unwanted – thrown away like garbage, although even garbage had somewhere to go and he had nowhere and no one to turn to.
“Come and sit down,” the captain invited. “You must be feeling hungry.”
Charlie slowly made his way to the captain’s table. Somehow he expected this dream to turn into a nightmare again and to find himself cast out again. He could not bring himself to hope again in case his heart were ripped out once more – he was not sure how much more pounding it could take. All his life he had felt like a castaway on a little row boat and the thought of that becoming a reality now terrified him.
The captain brought a plate of food over for Charlie and his eyes grew large and wide at what was set before him. His plate was laden with choice meat and delicious vegetables – a meal fit for a king. Charlie had never seen food like this in his entire life, nor had he ever tasted it. Watery gruel and stews were the order of the day in the workhouse.
For a minute he did not know where to start, he simply stared at the food in front of him, believing it must be a vision.
“Go on, eat up and enjoy,” the captain said enjoying Charlie’s obvious incredulity.
Charlie began to eat, savouring every mouthful as he ate. The flavours were something so intense that he relished every morsel and was determined to remember every bite.
He leaned back against the chair, his belly full and satisfied, but his mind confused and wondering. Why had the captain given him such good treatment when all he deserved was punishment and judgement? Charlie couldn’t quite figure this out – it went against everything he had experienced previously in his life. In fact he couldn’t quite figure out this unusual man. He was unlike anyone Charlie had ever met. For someone who had experienced cruelty and intolerance, he was remarkably kind and generous, the very opposite of what he must have suffered in his own life.
“Why?” Charlie asked.
The captain was not taken by surprise at the question as he understood Charlie’s bewilderment and thoughts.
“Because I am found,” he said noting the confusion in Charlie’s eyes.
“What do you mean? Charlie asked.
“When I was accused of all those crimes nobody believed that I was innocent,” he said earnestly. “I have never felt so alone and so low in all my life. I felt dead inside.
“But something must have changed for you,” Charlie blurted out before he could restrain himself. Quickly he looked down at the floor sorry he had spoken out of turn. The last thing he wanted was to anger the captain.
“I see you are eager to know the truth,” the captain smiled. “That is a good thing Charlie, because the truth can only set you free from the bondage that you find yourself in.”
“The truth is,” Charlie said angrily, “that no one wanted me – not my mother, not the workhouse and that I am useless human being with no worth to anyone – not even myself.”
“That is only partly the truth Charlie,” the captain said. “It may be true that your mother rejected you and the workhouse matrons never really cared about you, but you are not worthless and useless – that is the lie.”
Charlie did not answer and the captain could see that he was wrestling with his thoughts and emotions. It was as though a battle was raging in his heart and mind.
“As I was saying Charlie,” he continued, “you need to acknowledge the truth to move on and to become found. When you can accept that you were rejected but that it doesn’t need to be the defining moment of who you are as a person, then you position yourself to be found by others.”
“Who found you?” Charlie asked tentatively.
“I was found by a man who accepted me despite what others were saying about me. He looked into my soul and saw what was truly there without ever judging me. All he did was to love me.”
“Was he your father?” Charlie asked. He needed to know.
“No Charlie,” the captain answered. “He was the father of a man who died sailing with me. I made some mistakes as a captain on my voyage and some bad choices that caused some men to die. I became found when I acknowledged my mistakes and when he chose to love me and father me despite what I had done to his son. He chose to make me his son and adopt me into his family and I learned to love and trust again.”
The impact of the Captain’s words hit Charlie like a ton of bricks. He had never been accused by others nor had anyone died as a result of his mistakes, and yet he had lived his life as though he were the only person who had ever had obstacles in his life. He felt a mixture of sorrow and shame at his attitude.
“Don’t beat yourself up Charlie,” the Captain said softly to him. It was as though the man could read his mind.
“ Charlie murmured, “I guess I have been seeing things from within my shell of hurt and rejection. How can I change that?”
“Become who you want to be Charlie. It’s as simple as that. What we entertain in our thoughts, moulds us into what we will be one day. If you want to be found, then you need to think of yourself as worthy to be found and never think of yourself as poor or wretched again.”
“I will try,” Charlie thought. Deep inside he so desperately wanted to be free of the weight that he had carried all his life.
“We can begin right now,” the captain said his eyes twinkling in mischief. “I am in need of a cabin boy and someone to help me on my journeys. Part of this position requires you to be trustworthy and discreet at what you hear in this cabin. In return I will teach you everything I know about sailing and reading maps. Can you do that?”
Charlie was not sure he had heard correctly. All his life he had dared not hope for a future, and yet now, just in a split second, when he had resolved to change his thinking, his future was unfolding for him and he felt hope well up in his heart.
“Yes Sir!” Charlie said, overwhelmed at the generosity of this man who had already taught him so much in such a short time.As he looked into the smiling face of a man who was a stranger only an hour before, Charlie knew that he had been found.
A Love Story
He waited, craning his neck, looking at the horizon that seemed to shimmer and dance in the heat. For many days and weeks he had looked and waited, hoping and eagerly anticipating the figure he so longed to see. His heart ached again as he looked at the empty horizon and a tear trickled down his weathered face. A piece of him was missing and he so wanted it back. He would never give up hope of seeing her beloved face again. Day after day he looked and waited, wishing her back to him. As he sadly shook his head and began to turn away, movement caught his eye. He looked up quickly, his heart somersaulting in his chest. A butterfly flitted by and his disappointment was etched on his countenance. Then he saw her. She looked tired and weak dragging her feet like leaden weights over the dusty hill. Her posture spoke volumes. He saw the defeated slump of her shoulders and how her head drooped in shame and failure and his heart swelled with love for her. She had come home. Quickly he ran from the homestead and out onto the dusty road that wound its way up the hill. He ran as though his very life depended on it. As he appraoched her he could smell the stench of unworthiness and the fear in her, but none of it mattered to Him. She could not look him in the eye and she cast her eyes downward at the stony ground like a child waiting to be chastised. She waited for his words of anger and rejection but they didn’t come. When she looked up into his face she saw the face of love. He flung his arms around her in a love embrace, nestling his face into her neck and kissing her tenderly, breathing in all the fear, rejection, self-loathing and shame and replacing it with unconditional acceptance. Her tears flowed down onto his shoulder as she asked for forgiveness and promised she would try harder and would work harder to make the relationship work. He listened for a brief while and then placed his finger over her lips to silence her. He carried her the last few steps up to the homestead and called for his servants to bring her his robe and his treasured possessions. As she looked in confusion up to him he smiled the smile of pure love and acceptance. Her heart broke again and she cried, “I’m sorry Daddy, I’ve let you down.” He wiped her tears away, hugged her and said “Welcome home my daughter – you could never disappoint me for I love you more than life itself and everything I have is yours. As his words sank into her mind and into her heart she felt secure and safer than she had in a long time. She was home and looking into the eyes of love.