55Friday: The “Hallelujah” Edition

What was I supposed to say at that sorrow-saturated moment, when you stood behind security’s velvet rope, reaching out for me one last time? I couldn’t follow you to your gate, I can’t follow you in to hell, I must follow this war even more closely, because you have been deployed, though you weren’t supposed to be. fleeting sweetness.jpg

If we could all go back in time, would some of us have voted the way we did, if we knew this is where we would be in May of 2007? I didn’t vote for him and I certainly didn’t vote for this nightmarish occupation which causes nothing but anguish, for innocents cowering in their own homes, for the young, so very young men and women in uniform who witness that and for the relatives of those witnesses, who walk about in a depressed haze, worrying if the last time…was that the last good-bye?

Dazed, I now sleepwalk similarly through my days, wondering where you are, if you’ve had proper food (vegan? In the military??) and if you are okay. I can’t focus, I can’t sleep and I’m grateful to be an allergy sufferer, because it gives my tears and the perma-red eyes they descend from acceptable reasons to exist.

I miss you already, little sister and only sibling of mine. You will always be three to me, knobby knees and ankle socks, super-short hair and moody sweetness. I miss everything about you and I wish you could come home.

What kind of a war are we waging if we send people who just survived cancer scares over, I asked a mutineer. “We’re sending people with spinal cord injuries, what do you think?” was their reply. I think we should support our troops, by bringing them home NOW. And I felt that way before I knew they would take you, too.

That soul-crushing moment when I had to let you go, when I couldn’t stop hearing Jeff Buckley’s voice in my head crooning “Last Goodbye”, I lost every word in my expanded-thanks-to-Scripps-Howard vocabulary. I stumbled with my leaden tongue instead of my wobbly feet, awkwardly letting “bye”, “be well” and “take care of yourself” get muddled in to some nasty cliché cocktail. What I really wanted to tell you, was “I love you, so very much. You are precious to me and I will count the hours until you return.” But that truth never came out of my lips. At least I didn’t cry, not while you were looking. Only when the tram took you away from me did my tear ducts release pain and fear. And Buckley was there again:

There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah [Cohen]

I did my best, Kalyani. It wasn’t much. And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah…because at least I got to hug you good-bye, unlike our Mother, who wasn’t given a chance for such grace, who could only weep from 3,000 miles away while she prayed for your safety.


This Friday, write about pain, farewells, uncertainty, war or whatever haunts you.

Ten years ago, Jeff Buckley drowned in Memphis; that tragedy stole his shimmering, otherworldly vibrato and left thousands of music-lovers wondering, “What if…?”. Write about him or other voices which will never sing again, like Nusrat’s, which inspired him.

Earlier this week, I couldn’t get Marvin Gaye’s Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) out of my head; find inspiration in his work, if you like. Write whatever story you feel like telling, as long as it contains just 55 sets of unbroken characters, because it’s Friday and if you’re anything like me, words are how Hygeia’s sister soothes you.

26 thoughts on “55Friday: The “Hallelujah” Edition

  1. Hearing those unmistakable notes, I rolled my eyes, muted the TV and turned away from the ER rerun.

    I wonder when Jeff Buckley recorded this song, if he knew that it would get used on every mediocre television show at some point, in order to convey the pathos which poor writing and unlikeable characters can’t.

  2. The beginning of my mind-numbing journey. Would rather be anywhere than at the beginning. Pushing to survive without the support of systems I’ve grown to tolerate, acknowledge, and begrudgingly lean on. Alas, it was my decision to let go. So, what happens when the recluse goes against nature, and needs others? No fear. No distractions.

  3. He was a very shy kid, his parents agreed.

    I got him to talk and he said “I want to become an astronaut”. “Veggies are important for an astronaut” I said, as I poked him. Giggling he said, “Uncle, don’t do that, it tickles me”.

    It then dawned on me, his dad was my age.

  4. “I hate it here. I’m lonely.” “Sweetie, you’ll like it soon. You are here to be with your husband.” “I hardly know my husband. It all happened too quickly. And, I never got to say a proper goodbye to my parents.” “You don’t have to say goodbye. They are with you always.” “I miss them.”

  5. “Guess who is here to see you!” her family cooed next to the slow heart monitor.
    It was me, the one not sure she could hear—not blood but still bound by a love of cell phones and stupid jokes. She wanted us to write something about her.
    So I do, every chance I get.

  6. Joe Strummer you were the London I dream about, He sang about the World and takeaway food. He saw America through the windows of a bus. He listened to the world without fear. “You cast a long shadow and that is your Testament, somewhere in your soul, there’s always rock and roll, Yeah!” forever peace

  7. Sometimes it amazes me how much time has passed.

    Four years ago I was banging my overlarge head against theories, a shapeless student in faded clothing, wide-eyed, fighting, unkissed. Marching with signs.

    Somewhere in all this I got kissed, got a job, and stopped marching.

    Now only the clothing, and the war, are the same.

  8. They held each other close, tightening with every passing second. The train whistle blew.

    They parted, but their gazes remained fixed. As the train began to speed away, the vacuum in his insides became bigger and bigger. When she was gone, he finally sat down, alone. A hand tapped him on the shoulder.

    “Ticket, please.”

  9. How does India maintain a democracy with such a multi-ethnic polity, but not Iraq? I disagreed with the war, it was moronic, but I must admit most of Iraq’s problems stem from an internal inability to get along, something America can do little about. The British kind of segregated India, into Pakistan & India, for ethno-religious reasons. Is a similar solution necessary for Iraq, a nation Winston Churchill made up in his brain one afternoon?

  10. She stepped into the limo with a smile, excited to be married. Days later she broke down on the plane, crying for 3,000 miles into her painted hands, stifling her sounds in his chest. Months later she watched the video and heard her mother cry the same piercing tears. Is this what a mother-daughter bond feels like?

  11. They chased her around the vast expanse of the playground until she could run no longer. And then they kicked and punched and spat upon her skin: the shade of chocolate or feces, depending on what mood they were in.

    Nineteen years later, her body will stiffen oh so briefly when she meets alabaster men.

  12. We said goodbye on the street corner that night because I finally understood what it was to love me, not love the crumbs you give me. I gave you warmth, compassion, beauty and intellect and you gave me two hours on Friday. I don’t need your need anymore because I want to be whole.

  13. My flat American voice gives me privilege where my skin would not; I love it but left it when the usurper stepped in. Individuals must be accountable you tell me. We attend the same church but that doesn’t make me think like you. Where’s the culpability is for President’s who make war and not love?

  14. The war rages here in my home As I take infant steps to leave 13 years of “bitch”, “not good enough” hardened ears Mutinous, determined, warrior princess I smell freedom, fresh oxygen, and possibilites Hallelujah.

  15. One line sang out… “most of Iraq’s problems stem from an internal inability to get along, something America can do little about.” Was this what the embarassingly post-colonial world was left with, their inability to get along? Sometimes the hallelujahs resound so loudly we forget we’re singing the same false song history taught us before.

  16. A year ago, I said goodbye. To stereotypes. To names. To you. And to the darkness I became. WAR! To you it’s a game. To me It’s a reality.

    Now, I am left with the wisdom Of we hated for 300 years

    And the hope That people like you and people like me will heal

  17. Your sister is in my prayers, ANNA.

    (Grace, Hallelujah was originally recorded by Leonard Cohen. The Buckley version was also played in a West Wing episode after a key character was gunned down. I’ve wondered if we’d be in this mess if Martin Sheen’s character were president.)

  18. No 55 words from me except to say that I’m a big sister also and I can’t even imagine how hard this must be for you–my sisters are my heart, a huge part of everything I am. I’m glad you got to take her to the airport and my heart breaks a little even thinking about how hard it must have been to watch her go. Take care.

  19. My parents followed me to my apartment in their car. They’d been searching campus for me: Shields, the Silo, MU. Where was I? I got away with it, somehow. Any and all trust in them (and in myself?) shattered. I got away with it, but missed the rest of THE party. Happy 21st to all.

  20. No 55 from me either; your sister is in my prayers. From your comments over the years on Sepia Mutiny, I have to say, you sound like a phenomenal big sister, ANNA, and she sounds like a phenomenal little sister, and person.

  21. I looked around at the sea of uniforms while boarding at Ramstein. I was going home with them, those who lived. Real warriors and heroes.

    An hour later, I felt a metal against my wrist as a young man with a hook for a hand prodded me. ‘Ma’am, are you going to eat those peanuts?’

  22. To everyone thinking of my sister– thank you, so much. Your kindness means the world to me– and it cheered her, when I let her know about your comments. This community is a beautiful one.


    Msichana, Karthik, Coffeeface, Sonia…your 55s are excellent. I keep re-reading them, they’re so good.

  23. Bahrain, early 2003. We end up drinking with some US Marines. Beers later, we’re all buddies. Food arrives. Marine: “That looks good; is there pork in it?� My mate: “Nope, want a bite?� Marine: “You sure? cos I’m Jewish.� He looks around nervously as he realizes what he’s said. My mate: “Relax man, nobody cares.�

  24. “most of Iraq’s problems stem from an internal inability to get along, something America can do little about.” Was this what the embarassingly post-colonial world was left with, their inability to get along?

    I suppose I am one of the few supporters of the war. Why are the Iraqis so opposed to the American presence? Who else but the Americans would pour billions of their own money into rebuilding Iraq… Isn’t it the responsibility of the only remaining superpower to help these poorer nations come up… admittedly, the invasion commenced upoun false pretences, but you can’t undo the invasion now. Just like, you can’t undo the two A-bombs dropped on Japan. Keep in mind, though, that it was America that rebuilt Japan after WWII, first and foremost by introducing a new Constitution. The results are evident to anyone. Iraq could well go the same route. I just don’t understand. There are other examples, of course, Iran, and Vietnam, which resisted American occupation but these are *hit-holes, compared to Japan.