I just revised my lovely little Selah story. It’s halfway done! Click here to read Chapter One.
I just revised my lovely little Selah story. It’s halfway done! Click here to read Chapter One.
“How Real Is our Love?”
A Modern Sonnet
By Lonna Lisa Williams
How real is our love? As real as bone and blood,
As if we cut our fingertips to share
the reddest cells as native brothers bled.
The way and place we met was not foreseen
Or planned or guessed or neatly narrated.
Yet all great lovers model and inspire the rhyme
We poets place in words and meter, made to sound
Like music shared at evening story time.
Our love is like the morning star which shines
Against the longest night and most-awaited dawn;
Like hope, like Jesus who surprised us all
With Resurrection Day despite the bitter gall
Of nails and vinegar and splintered wood
He bore for us, as death to life—and love—was understood.
If you like my poetry, please read my books.
“Touch the Sky”
By Lonna Lisa Williams
For my (almost) husband,
Jose Rogel Mendiola
August 3, 2019
How much do I love you?
I love you for all the ways
we can touch the sky:
in aircraft, balloons, and spaceships,
or our bare eye—
in dreams or poetry
or prayers we tell a child,
so he feels safe at night
and will not cry.
I love you with the love of Jesus
who will come down from heaven,
among the clouds, wispy or billowing,
riding a white horse with golden bridle
and angels sounding trumpets
to draw us neigh.
I love you with a love
that will never fail or die.
I place my love like a silver key
into your open hand,
and kiss your fingers gently,
a perfect promise,
a thread to wrap our hearts
the truth without a lie,
as full of possibility
as a newborn baby’s sigh.
I love you as you tether me
to you and to this planet
with kisses, embraces, caresses
that strengthen me—and you—
to reach forever upward
and touch that sky.
And someday we will both be free
of razor wire on prison walls,
and we will lift our wings together
like an eagle, born to fly.
If you like my poem, please buy my books.
“You are crazy to do this for a prisoner!” my former best friend screamed at me as I was trying to return my U-Haul rental van on a hot June afternoon. She and her 4 kids had helped me move from Victorville, California (in the High Desert) to Bakersfield, California (in the lush Central Valley)–to be close to my fiancé, Jose. She was not happy with me for a long, hot weekend of packing and unpacking–with no restaurant treats, a too-small budget, and a cheap motel (at least they gave us a free Continental breakfast).
“You volunteered to come,” I reminded her. “I can write my books anywhere, and most places need an English teacher.”
“Well, just stay away from me!” she yelled before getting out of my life.
Not everyone thinks I am crazy for loving Jose, a prisoner in a private prison that contracts with the State of California. He was born in Mexico and lived most of his life in California, where he got involved in a gang and then was arrested, tried in court, and given a too-long sentence. We met when I was teaching the GED course in an Adelanto prison. He was my student, new to class, who gave me a Christmas card, a New Year’s card–and his whole sweet heart. For weeks we secretly exchanged love letters and sometimes met alone in the classroom to talk after other students left. I wrote him into my new Selah book. I got caught with 2 of his letters, was fired on Valentine’s Day, and then was banned from visiting him. For 4 months we did not see each other. Faithfully, he sent me cards for Valentine’s, my birthday, Easter, Mother’s Day. He drew them with his own hand, with bright pencils that brought the color back into my life.
He called me at 11:30 p.m., 6 weeks ago, excited to tell me about his transfer. His voice was calm and strong, like baritone music. I thought that, as long as he spoke to me, I could never be afraid or sad. No longer would only write each other letters or talk on the “monitored and recorded” telephone! We chatted excitedly, both nervous about having our first hug and kiss. I could not imagine how it would be to walk, sit, and eat together for hours on Saturdays and Sundays, in the prison’s Visitation room and courtyard, but I felt elated as if in a lingering, long-awaited dream.
My favorite of my 7 books is the perfect little fantasy novel called “Selah of the Summit.” I poured my own true life experiences into that book but made it look like fiction. A lot of the details were added fantasy elements from my imagination, but the basic tale was true. Writing fiction is much easier than writing a nonfiction, reveal-all book with my name as the main character and the awful viewpoint “I.” Victims of abuse often find it easier to distance themselves from the abused person they are by creating another persona and objectively telling their story (like a drama or puppet show they can control) as if it happened to someone else. So “Selah” tells my story of being an abused wife and survivor of other traumas, set into the deliverance tale of a desert slave girl who is freed from her castle-like prison and led to the mountains. I even made the San Bernardino Mountains (where I lived for years) the setting for that journey.
Now I’m writing “Selah 2.” I call it “Selah of the Desert.” It shows my more recent history and adventures. For over 9 months I taught full-time inside a California High Desert prison for male felons. The hours were long and difficult, security was crucial, and I (as well as prisoners) was always closely watched. I never expected to find something valuable there (or, more precisely, someone)—until love slipped between the prison bars.
I was miserable, sad, and lonely after the break-up of my marriage to a Turk. I was stranded in the desert, not adventuring overseas, and very few family or friends knew that I existed (except thousands of people on social media—but they were not exactly real). Christmas approached. I wasn’t invited anywhere except to the Geo Company Christmas party (one night) and church (where I was new and not a member of a special group). I kept catching viruses from the inmates and struggled through long days inside the prison sneezing and blowing my nose, always holding a tissue in one hand. I had one friend to meet at Starbucks, but later that fell through. I gave everyone who worked at the prison hand-signed Christmas cards, fancy ones I bought at Costco. The last thing I expected was a sweet Christmas card from one of my inmate students.
I hope you are enjoying my new Selah book. I’ve decided to make it easier to read by placing the new version of Chapter 1 here.
A Prison in the Desert
Selah was walking in the desert late at night. Clouds must have hidden stars and moon, for very little light shone around her. Her eyes got used to the dimness, and she carefully stepped over rocks and avoided tall, sharp cactus plants. In the distance she could see the mountains that surrounded the desert on 3 sides. The 4thside, westward, opened toward the Golden City and the Sea.
Selah looked at her glowing, hand-held Tech. It showed the time at 3:33. She held her breath. Nothing moved: no wind, no living creature, no distant wave of sound. Even Selah’s thoughts silenced. Then, in the next second and the next breath, the westward sky exploded in a brilliant light.
It seemed beautiful at first: a roundish ball of glistening white became a mushroom, reaching high and low. In moments it leaped upward and out toward Selah and the distant desert, edged by shooting flames of red and blue, consuming everything in its path. Later the sound followed, a shock millions of times louder than the close-up shooting of a metal gun. It would destroy any ear that might hear it, but since it was slower, the light would already have erased everything in a cataclysmic firestorm, until even the molecules—once dazzling in the air—burned to nothing.
“Maker, are you here?” Selah asked, speaking in the total dark. How could she still be alive to think or talk? How could the darkness feel both cold and peaceful?
The scene changed to a simple bedroom. Late-night blackness poured through closed, barred windows as a little light appeared inside, illuminating color. Selah parted crimson drapes. Pale yellow stars swirled into the darkness like a firefly dance. Selah reached out to catch one in her hand. It glowed between her fingers. She took a step, wishing for a tree. A hemlock fir appeared, draping its branches around her shoulders like green, antique lace. It was the perfect place to hide. She opened her fist and placed the firefly star upon the closest branch.
“Oh, cover me,” she cried to the arcing branches. “Keep me from the empty dark and memories. Hide me from Apocalypse.”
She ached with desolation, pain from head to toe.
The distant sound of bells broke through the shifting images of dreams. Selah reached out to her bedside table, pressed a button, and silenced the Tech device that woke her.
The sun was not up yet. Faint wisps of pink and orange clouds like feathers drifted above the east. Selah looked up at them between the open wooden window blinds.
“It was just a dream, again,” she whispered to console herself.
Her mobile Tech device blinked red, drawing her eyes to it. She sat up and reached for it, staring at its luminescent screen that glowed with particles of blue light. Red light pulsed through it, telling her that it would not stop until she checked the message that waited for her.
Passover and Resurrection Sunday (which some people call “Easter”) have a lot in common. They usually fall on the same spring weekend and are celebrated all over the world. Passover retells the story of thousands of years ago (this is year 5779 in the Jewish calendar) when God sent Moses to set the Jewish people free from slavery in Egypt. The Egyptian Pharaoh did not cooperate even though God used Moses to show many signs and miracles. Only after Passover did the Pharaoh send the Jews out of Egypt with added gifts from Egyptians who wanted them to go.
At Passover, the Angel of Death swooped across Egypt, taking the life of every first-born child. Each household was affected, from Pharaoh with his wealth and power to the servant who guarded him. Moses gave Pharaoh advance warning, but the stubborn king ignored him, so the Angel of Death took the life of his child, too. The only way to prevent death was to do as God instructed the Jewish people: sacrifice a spotless lamb and sprinkle its blood on the top and sides of each house’s doorway. Then the Angel of Death would see the blood and pass over that house, not striking anyone dead.
Davut and I posed in an old-time photo in Turkey
I wrote about my dear Turkish friend Davut before. I met him 8 years ago when I escaped from frozen Russia to spring-like Turkey. He was a special Turkish Army Officer improving his English at my second language school. I was fired from the first language school in the first week–for sharing about Russian Easter traditions. Some Muslim students complained. I protested being fired for being a Christian when Turkey’s Constitution grants freedom of religion, and I may have got my job back, but I walked around the corner of Izmit, Kocaeli (near Istanbul) and found a better language school that paid more and gave me more teaching hours.
I still did not have a good place to live. Some female teachers from the first language school had offered me a bed, but I must have offended them, too, for I was told to leave. I was sitting on the steps in front of their apartment building with my luggage stacked around me. I looked and felt like a refugee. Indeed, I did not have much to return to in America: no home, no job, no husband. My young adult children had their own lives, and I was not important in them.
Davut (right) when I first met him 8 years ago in Turkey
Davut and his friends found me there, and he immediately offered me a place to stay in the spare room of his apartment. I stayed there for months. He did not even ask me to pay him, but I paid a little that I could afford. He knew I was lonely, and he invited me to hang out with him and his friends. We walked through the cobbled streets of old Izmit, stepped into ancient stone churches and tiled mosques hung with tiny lights, drank tea and played backgammon in cafes by the Marmara Sea, strolled through parks lined with multi-colored tulips (“lale” is the Turkish name of the tulip flower which the Dutch imported from Turkey).
OK, now for some light-hearted, fun writing. I love Starbucks. People tease me for that, often saying, “But it’s so expensive! You pay $6 for a cup of coffee.”
I try explaining that I do “star dashes” and gather little gold stars on my smartphone that count toward free coffee and food. Plus, I get anything I want to order on my birthday! People usually roll their eyes or shake their heads, not believing that it could be fun and not-so-horribly expensive to frequent a designer coffee business. I don’t go out to dinner at restaurants, I argue. Doesn’t that count for something?
When my kids were teenagers, we often went to Starbucks in Southern California, sitting together outside under a green umbrella, wearing our summer t-shirts, shorts, and sandals, squinting in the sun. We talked and planned together, ate the Best in the World Lemon Cake, and got free house brew coffee refills because I have a Starbucks Gold Card.