October 17, 2010

Ruth Schiffmann

Tiny Flakes

Someone has left the window open. A restless breeze finds its way through the torn screen and blows my heart to pieces. I watch glistening bits flutter and turn, suspended on a wave of raw air and think about reaching out, gathering handfuls of the pieces of myself, kneeling on the cold floor to put them back together.

Instead, I watch them settle, close my eyes and wait for another strong gust to carry them away. It will be better this way, I think. It will hurt less in the end. But still, stray bits linger, so I begin to give them away. I tuck a hard corner into the envelope when I pay my electric bill, mix tiny flakes into bowls of cold cereal and serve them to my family for breakfast, place a ragged edge in the recycling bin with last week's junk mail.

My father forgot my sister's name today. I brought him photos and pressed out her name like a newly minted coin. "I don't know her," he said, his eyes still wide and bright.

The heat kicks on and stirs up lost scraps of myself from the baseboards. I pluck a kite-shaped fragment and turn it over in my hands, wonder if this is what it feels like for him to watch scattered pieces of himself drift away, float back, then drift farther still.

I smooth out the section before me, feeling it thaw with the heat of my fingertips and the fear in my breath. It becomes less brittle as I press. Fold. Turn. Press. Fold. Turn. Until it looks like an origami swan. I cut a length of string and tie it from the curtain rod, push open the window and wait for the wind to find its way through the tear again.

I suck in cold air and wonder when my father will forget me, how I will remain whole when he does as I watch the tiny piece of my heart that remains, floating on the wind.


Ruth Schiffmann puts pen to paper always hoping for that magical moment when words take on a life of their own. Some days the magic happens. On others, she writes in hopeful anticipation, knowing it will visit her again soon. More of her work can be viewed at www.RuthSchiffmann.com

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