Rachelyn farrell

Research Scientist
Narrative Intelligence Lab
University of Kentucky
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Clay and People

I walk among distracted clay faces,
Their clay bodies colorful and plain,
Going about their business and ignoring me,
And I wonder whether I should be ashamed of having described
My friends and neighbors as made of clay.

As I meander through the crowd, I recognize the scene.
I’ve read this story once before,
I know the man who wrote it…
What’s his name though…? It’ll come to me.
The story goes, that a man finds himself surrounded by people
Who are all made of clay, and they pay him no mind.
But then he spots a door, to a room
And through the door’s glass window, he can see inside…
Human faces, in the flesh,
Smiling, laughing, talking to each other.
And I see the room before I see it.
Sure enough, along this hall,
The door is red, the room is full of people.

I try the door although I’m sure it’s locked to keep me out,
To keep me longing for the warm and living faces it conceals.
I knock so loudly on the door that surely they would turn their heads
If they could hear it.

I’ve read the story many times, cannot remember the author’s name.
But I know it’ll come to me, just as I know
That I’ll get no answer when I ask politely
of a clay passerby,
“Excuse me sir, do you know how to get into that room?”

I point at the window and wonder if clay people can even see in there.

“They’re different, in there,” is all he can say, before he walks away.
I know that it would be no use to ask of any others
How I could join the people they don’t know or trust or like.
I knock again and stare for hours
Through the glass, at life the way I want to live it,
Stuck out here among the clays,
And after days, walk away in search of some distraction.

What’s the name… I know I know it…
If only I can think of it, I might remember the secret of the room.
I know the man gets in the room, somehow…
I turn around, face the door, and it all comes back.
Yes! He leaves,
And returns to find the door wide open,
And follows someone in.
The door is open for me now too.
And a man in red, more bright and fake
Than the fakest of the clay men is,
Walks inside, and so do I.

And all those people, so alive, are gone and in their place
Are bright red plastic men just like the one I followed in.
But I don’t mind, it doesn’t matter now.

I remember the end of the story
Though the author’s name eludes me…
He enters the room, but all his life was outside, not within.
So happy that he made it here, he finally settles in.
A plastic person holds his hand as he closes his eyes,
And the room dissolves and dies.

And I take the hand of a little child,
Close my eyes, take a breath, and scream.
Not a fearful, but a happy scream,
Satisfied– at long last, I can rest.
But it is a little chilling, to hear a noise I never make
Escape my soul so uncontrolled as this.
I’m trying not to shiver,
As I’m drifting slowly out of my perspective, and I wonder,
What will happen to the child
So bravely holding on to me
While all the room collapses as I scream?

But this is all my imagination,
I scream a little louder, kind of singing.
Drowning out the final remnants of the vision I’ve created,
Hoping it’ll end before I convince myself it wasn’t ever real.