The Dead’s Mistakes #poem #flashfiction

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I pause on the little stone bridge
That overlooks the brook.
The water passes beneath the arch of stones
Gurgling over pebbles and bubbling past weeds.
I listen to the voice of the brook
A voice that has lived much longer than I have,
A voice that has witnessed days of gladness
And days of sorrow
Times of celebration and times of horror,
A long history in the town of Salem.
I watch as dappled sunlight dances across the brook
Like sprites made of spun water and air,
And I wonder what stories it would tell if it could.
If a little girl had once stood here on this bridge and made a wish,
If a couple had once strolled by here hand-in-hand
Bearing hopes and dreams for a future that would not come,
If an old woman had once paused on these stones to take
In the beautiful scenery before her execution.
What were the brook’s memories?
Who were the people that once walked across its banks?
So many secrets the brook must hold within its cold grasp,
A history of secrets that I could learn from,
That we could all learn from,
Not to make the same mistakes as those who lived long ago.

My gaze follows a leaf as it is caught up in the current,
It twirls and bobs like a struggling ship to stay afloat.

Even if we knew the secrets, though, would we listen to their lessons?
Would we learn from the dead’s mistakes?
History repeats itself again and again
Even when we should know better
Even when we see the warning signs approach.
We harden our hearts and stop our ears
From feeling, from listening
And let ourselves fall into the abyss,
And it is the next generation that must climb us out.

I watch the leaf bump against a jutting rock
Where it beaches itself, trapped on all sides with no hope of escape.

I listen to the bubbling voice of the brook for a while longer
The scene before me too beautiful to imagine there was ever
Tragedy here in the past.
Salem, as any other town, rests quietly among the singing birds
And merry children.

The leaf is still trapped as I turn and walk back across the bridge,
And I hear the brook’s whisper just before I step off.
The words I hear in that moment send a shiver up my spine:
“The abyss draws near…draws near…”
I hurry away
And pray that God never lets my heart harden.

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