Death on either side

A personal prosery prompt

The narrow bridge swayed in the rain over the chasm, just as the old Mystic had described, but Hayim was determined. He visualized the elder’s wizened face. Death on either side, the Rabbi said.

The way of life between was his only hope, but that would have to be enough. This time he would bring her back. A sweeping gust of wind drew his mind back to his predicament, as Hayim’s legs threatened to betray him. No, no, not again!

One, two. One, two. Hayim slowly and firmly put his feet down, one after the other, one after the other. He had to make it.

The skies opened with the next gust, and the storm blew him, screaming, off the beam and into the abyss along with the glistening raindrops.

Drenched in sweat, Hayim opened his eyes, clenching his soaking blanket.

God damn it…

d’Verse is taking a break for the holidays so there won’t be any prompts for a while…

So I’ll be trying out some prompts born of my mind instead!

I considered the idea of responding to prompts from other groups, but d’Verse satisfies my creative curiosity more than well enough – and I don’t want to spend all of my time responding to poetry prompts.

The rules of prosery are simple:

  1. Use an assigned line in the body of your prose. You may change the punctuation and capitalization, but you are not allowed to insert any words within the line itself. You can add words at the beginning and/or at the end of the line; but the line itself must remain intact.
  2. Your prose can be either flash fiction, nonfiction, or creative nonfiction. YOU CAN NOT WRITE A POEM for this prompt. AND, your prose should be no longer than 144 words, sans title. It does not have to be exactly 144 words. But it can be no longer than 144 words.

The line I assigned myself was:

Death on either side, the Rabbi said, the way of life between.

Robert Hayden (1913-80), ‘The Broken Dark’ (a poem)

I came across this line as I was reading through some of Hayden’s poems in his ‘Collected Poems’. Robert Hayden was an American poet, essayist, and educator. He served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1976 to 1978, a role today known as US Poet Laureate; and he was the first African-American writer to hold the office.

His experience of racial difference was bittersweet. Hayden passed his earliest years in a section of Detroit (later nicknamed Paradise Valley) that remained racially diverse until an influx of Southern blacks in search of jobs, followed by reactive white flight, turned it virtually all-black. His early familiarity with Jews, Germans, Italians, and other whites, reflected in several of his poems, perhaps laid the foundation for the transracial philosophy that is a hallmark of Hayden’s art. Attending a mainly white high school, he felt both a degree of ostracism and, at the same time, a degree of acceptance and understanding support.

-Arnold Rampersad (1941-), afterword to ‘Collected Poems’

20 thoughts on “Death on either side”

  1. Oh I feel for him in this condition of his life.
    Neither here nor there
    Accepted and rejected
    What a nightmare
    No wonder the rabbi gave him this word.

  2. David, this is wonderfully written. The vivid description of raw nature and Hayim’s thoughts and fears conjures pictures in the readers mind. I could visualise out myself as I might see myself in a dream (of a nightmare?). I enjoyed reading this immensely, and the soaking blanket puts a final touch of mystery into the drama 👌👍👏

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