The Cursed Engagement Ring

Every year, the Indiana Poets Society runs a contest with 25 (or so) categories. Each category is sponsored either by a local group, an individual, or, for the top few prizes, the entire association. For three years, Brenda and I were judges representing the Indianapolis Chapter when we were active members. We had to withdraw when her health deteriorated.

But me being me, I notice patterns. During the Fall Rendezvous event, held over a weekend at one of the State Parks in October, the winners are announced and the poems are read. After reading the winning poems for each category (first place, second place, third place, and honorable mention), time is allotted for attendees to read their own poems. People attending the event that submitted poetry to that specific category got up and read their (losing) poem. Sometimes the non-winners were decent, sometimes not. Usually not. I have a poem about that. (See yesterday’s entry.)

The year Brenda was in the nursing home, I had an interesting idea. My idea was that I’d tell a complete story, through poetry, where each “chapter” was an entry to one of the contests. Since the categories were presented backwards, ending with the grand prize winner being announced last, I ordered my poems in the same order. Each poem would meet the criteria for the category. If my poem won the category, it would be read in that presentation. If it didn’t win, I’d be able to read it in the open session. If people were paying attention, they would, hopefully, see the story unfold. My plan was there would be some repetition so that people are not only reminded, but if a poem didn’t get read, the story will still be complete.

I wrote six poems in the story, but because of life circumstances, I never finished the project. Perhaps one day I will, but it’s not a priority at this point in my life. Not only that, I’d have to rework the poems to match the new category listing, which changes every year.

These are the six poems:

Chapter 1: The Engagement Ring
© W. Scott Grant
March 30, 2001 10:45 pm

Yes, sir. This ring is very beautiful
A sapphire set in platinum and gold
But it has magical power power,
And it is very, very old.

Don’t believe in magic, sir?
Superstitious foolishness, you say?
Very well, may me cash, no refunds allowed.
The price today is cheap, but you’ll pay.

Now go, give it to your little woman,
You’re pretty girl, so fair.
Propose on your knees, yes, yes.
She knows how much you care.

Tell her, though, of the ring’s magic
For one day you’ll know I’m right
At noon, on the twenty-first of June,
If the ring should see the sun’s light.

Gone, she will be, for one full year.
Gone without a trace or clue.
It happened to me, young man
What I tell you now is true!

Like me, though, you will forget.
It’s part of the cursed spell.
While she is in Heaven’s special garden,
Your life will be a living hell!

 

Chapter 2: The Garden of Space and Time
© W. Scott Grant
April 1, 2001

Come, sweet Allysa. Come along and see
This is my Garden of Space and Time
In here, you are totally safe and free.

But no! My new husband! Here I cannot stay.
We’ve been on our honeymoon,
Graham and I, we’re going home today.

See the trees of light? Dazzling glowing leaves?
Crystalline like the magic ring you wear?
Hear the tinkling in the breeze?

See the sky a-swirl, bright stars aglow?
Yes, I see them. Yes, but tell me
Is this some electronic show?

No, the Hostess said, but here you will stay
Your magic ring brought you here
To keep you just one single day.

No! No! No! Take me home! Allysa cried.
But that power is beyond me,
Listen to me, young bride.

When you return home from here
Things will not be the same
For them it will be one full year.

How can this be so? This cannot be.
This, the Garden of Space and Time
A magical place for just you and me.

Your ring saw the sun’s light at noon
On the longest day of the year ~
The solstice, the twenty-first of June.

 

Chapter 3: Background Music
© W. Scott Grant
March 29, 2001

In the hotel lobby, soft melody barely heard
An orchestral rendition of Annie’s Song
Waiting, watching, asking, have you seen my wife?
No sir. I have not. Is there something wrong?

Out on the deck, steel-drum playing by the pool
Never heard Seasons of the Sun quite that way
Remember my Allysa? Five-four, dusky blonde, blue eyes?
Saw her this morning, weren’t you going home today?

On the beach, a boom box playing way too loud
Heavy metal remake of Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
Quiet desperation, searching everywhere
She’s never done anything like this before.

Lifeguard shelter, another radio, another station
Hotel California live just doesn’t sound right
Dispatcher checks all guard posts on the beach
Promise they’ll keep watch on into tonight.

Police station, classical music behind the chaos
Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
File a missing person report, all-points-bulletin
If she’s anywhere in town, they’ll know for sure.

Telephone on hold music, cut off then back on
Some big band playing The Derry Aire
Change the reservations, change the plans
Minimum wage bureaucrats just don’t seem to care.

Back to the hotel, pianist playing in the hall
Plays All by Myself way too fast
Exhausted, Graham sits, tears in his eyes
How long will this nightmare last?

 

Chapter 4: Tragic Inconvenience
© W. Scott Grant
June 14, 2001

Off in the distance, Graham heard the sound
Clang. Clang. Clang. He only had an hour.
But before he got there, those arms came down.
His palms were sweaty, his stomach sour.

He stopped on the line and set the brake.
He relaxed and mindlessly watched the train.
The noise and rumbling made his head ache.
The flashing lights added to his pain.

Hurry, he thought. His time was running thin.
Semi-trailers on flatbeds, oil, coal, and freight.
One after another, with no apparent end.
He checked his watch, he couldn’t be late.

Suddenly, the train wheels locked tight.
Sparks showered from the track.
A muffled boom, an explosion to his right.
He thought he was under attack.

Soon the train stopped, blocking Graham’s route.
Not now, he screamed, what stupid luck!
He opened the car door and got out.
He saw, three blocks away, the wrecked truck.

He turned and kicked the ground.
Consulted his map for an alternate way.
Back in, he turned the car around.
Cursing, it had been a horrible day.

Nothing could make this day worse.
He thought as he glanced at the rear-view.
On the train, graffiti written in reverse.
Made right by the mirror, simply, “God Loves You.”

 

Chapter 5: The Phone
© W. Scott Grant
June 15, 2001

The worst fear a mother has
Is an official car pulling into the driveway.

The second worst fear is the phone.

Every time the phone rings unexpectedly
Thoughts come to mind
Mostly, these thoughts are banished by
A friendly, familiar voice.

It only takes one time
One call.

The frantic voice on the other end
Trying to remain calm, but.

The entire world comes shattering down.
Only the voice, no words are ever heard.
Injured, missing, dead ~ it doesn’t matter
It’s all the same.

It doesn’t matter how many children she has.
It doesn’t matter how old they are.
It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter.

Only God can understand the bond between
A mother and her child.

Only God can understand when that bond
Is broken.

 

Chapter 6: Interrogation
© W. Scott Grant
June 15, 2001

Tell me again about this magic ring.
Right. Gold setting, one carat sapphire.
Scroll work, very old and worn.
Inscriptions worn off long ago.

That’s all you remember?
A curse? Who told you about it?
At the flea market on East Washington?
Right. The one that’s been closed for five years.
Since the fire.

You were leaving the hotel.
She went outside to say “by” to some friends,
And you haven’t seen her since.
Yes, we talked to them.
No, they didn’t see her vanish into thin air.
Right, and neither did you.

Right, but the guy that sold you the ring said.
Right, “At noon on the twenty-first of June.”
Then he said, “Living Hell.”
He was right.

Sir, you are formally charged with the murder of your wife.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Brenda had been in the nursing home for over a year. On Friday, June 8, 2001, the owner the company I was working for was involved in a head-on collision on the interstate near Anderson, Indiana. I found this online regarding the accident: http://www.melissadata.com/lookups/CountyAccidents.asp?State=18&Year=2001&StCase=180310
The guy that crossed the median and hit my boss’s car was killed. When I was at the nursing home watching the TV news with Brenda, they showed helicopter footage from the accident and I said “That looks like Mike’s car.” I got the call early the next morning.

I took the day off work so that I could help my parents with their yard sale – especially since most of the stuff being sold was mine. Had I not taken that day off, I would have been in the car with Mike. He was returning to Indy after visiting a client and we had taken the same trip the prior week.

Mike’s injuries kept him away from work for over three months, and being the small company we were, this put the business into a death spiral. Brenda’s health also steadily declined. I lost the motivation to continue work on this project, though as we’ve seen already, I didn’t stop writing poetry. I would say that the period between June 2001 through December 2001 was probably the darkest period in my life.

Looking back now (over 16 years), I don’t know if this is project I want to finish. After retyping these six poems, the memory of what I had planned is clear enough. I’ve not been part of the poetry society, nor have actively been writing until recently. Who knows what the future will hold?

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