When You go Beyond What’s Possible

(Now imagine a much smaller, much paler person doing this in her bedroom mirror)

Realizing that you’ve done more than what should be possible is one of the best feelings in the world.

A few days ago I was playing squash with a friend. On one water break we paused to watch two guys on another court; at least one of them was on the Queen’s squash team, and although he seemed to be beating his partner they were playing really well.

They were on a higher level than I have ever played at.

My friend and I went back to playing, but soon we saw that the two guys had finished and for some reason they had walked down to watch us. They stood outside the glass and seemed to be commenting on what we were doing.

Having them stand there, watching, talking, changed everything. Continue reading “When You go Beyond What’s Possible”


If only to slip through

This curving wall of glass

Wherein life turns and spills

Spills down the warming glass

And my wish beheld is granted

In pressing palms pressing on

Past the gleaming barrier

Made pliable and soft

I stand under the torrent

To breathe the passing sights

To marvel and to swift forget

How I watched from the outside

For I have gained the hourglass

Where shimmering sands fall

To bathe my feet, my hips, my neck

‘Til I do not breathe at all

Copyright Elizabeth Cook 2013

China, Transylvania, and Rome


It does not take much strength to lift a hair, it does not take sharp eyes to see the sun and moon, it does not take sharp ears to hear a thunderclap.

~ Sun Tzu

Two nights ago I read 9 of the 13 sections of The Art of War, and wrote 13 pages of notes. I need hardly explain why my dreams were medieval and confusing. I could explain why I am doing this during exams, with my undergraduate seminar paper hanging over my head, but only if I knew.

Perhaps some of you are also perverse in timing things. I read Sun Tzu’s carefully framed quotations and the commentary offered by those such as Li Quan, Mei Yaochen, and Zhang Yu, and simply didn’t find a stopping place. Reading their reflections on terrain called to mind the varied landscapes of China, and I found myself Googling images of mountain jungles and rice fields.

I did not read the remaining four sections because I thought I should do some math instead. It turns out this was an excuse to pick up another book.

Today I finished Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I discovered a “Reader” app on my super-high-tech-complicated Android phone, and lo and behold, there were classic book inside. Free.

How could I not read a free copy of Dracula, which I had never read before?

So I exchanged the “ground of life and death” for the wilds of Transylvania, and the Count’s great ruined castle on its promontory. Continue reading “China, Transylvania, and Rome”

Orison – 4

Continued from


Orison – 1

Orison – 2

Orison – 3


Even without sight I could tell as the house loomed and I was borne within.

I could only act as myself in part, and could be nothing more than what I pretended to be. On this my life rested. My eyes flashed open once inside, and with a cry I let out all the fear that had been building. The man carrying me did not so much as miss a step. The house was great and empty, and I froze in awe at the room he brought me into. It stirred memories too old to recall. Cushions littered the floor around a low mahogany card table. Divans made a half-circle, and a great harp stood behind them.

I wriggled free. I think he let me do so, for there was no other way out of the room, and I scrambled away across the cushions until there was nowhere left to go, and there I sat drooping but wary, exhausted by the effort. Continue reading “Orison – 4”

Orison – 3

Continued from


Orison – 1

Orison – 2


Before a year had passed I was restless. Balsa knew before I did; I saw her watching, and was at first puzzled by the new lines around her eyes.

We were in the kitchen, peeling roots. I thanked her again for all that she had done for me, and asked how I might repay that debt; she replied that it was only right to settle debts before leaving a place. And she set me to bringing in the washing, and taking inventory in the cellar, and cleaning the baths.

It went on for some time. Until Balsa struggled to find new tasks for me, and wore an expression that made me sad and guilty.

I avoided her eyes and their lines. I wondered if it was wrong to go – I hoped that I might stay. But men had made roads that went north, and even had there been no roads I would have been forced to go that way, lest I live without deserving each breath.

Spring turned to summer, and one morning Balsa gave me a bag.

“It is best to go when it is warm.” She kept her face blank and I was torn. Continue reading “Orison – 3”

Ages Past


Never shun a glory low and faded

But stand upon the backs of ages

Climb the columns and tangle hands

In vines wreathing alabaster span

Green touch of time on ruined might

As flowers strewn on graves incite

A soft fatality, a delight sublime

In wondrous crafts of bygone times


Copyright Elizabeth Cook 2013

Orison – 2

Continued from


Orison – 1


In a room with white paper walls they asked me if I had any reason to live. If I had, what had I been doing during my time in the streets? What had I been doing with all that I knew and all that I did not know? Why had I not been seeking, tireless as the pole star, after some way – however despicable – to climb up from my impermanent place in the world?

Kneeling, head bowed, I begged their forgiveness.

When I woke I was the weakest I have ever been. I laid there and memorized the straw bed, and the bareness of the room. I could not see out the window. After some time a woman came, and she asked me how old I was. I did not know.

She was Balsa, wide and tall, who kept that inn with no one but her hired help, and who had an old sword hidden behind her bar. They said she had used it before. Continue reading “Orison – 2”

Daily Prompt: Prized Possession

I lived in one townhouse among many, turned inward on each other in a triangle. There was a triangular green in the middle, holding a pine and a maple that we could climb. When there were garage sales I and the other children could run around from place to place, with people keeping an eye on us from all three sides, and imagine that we were discovering treasures.

I usually left my next-door neighbour’s garage alone, or for last, because I found him confusing and I didn’t like playing with his daughter. But one year when I looked in I was stuck there. I saw a stuffed panda, and I felt really sorry for him.

He was squished on a shelf between a scruffy ‘something’ and some lamps, fabric fraying on his nose to show the plastic underneath. I didn’t understand why he wasn’t wanted. Why had they let the fabric fray?

I couldn’t reach him, and while I hesitated my neighbour noticed me. Continue reading “Daily Prompt: Prized Possession”