Perched High By Sara J. Sutler-Cohen

Featured Photograph: Fading Carousel By Toni Bennett

*Featured Image: Fading Carousel By Toni La Ree Bennett

Perched High

By Sara J. Sutler – Cohen

What is the debt owed for a lifetime of lies?

And I’m left with the sticky residue of time-worn lies, in a tarpaper house the smoke of which choked me when it caught fire with the truth.

Paper-thin statements of facts—little tissue-wrapped stories that nobody could grasp, truths disintegrated like so much bacterial sludge, disappearing into thin air.

The core of who we are—me and my siblings—our racial makeup and paternal histories stand in question as our feather-tipped mother flies away, leaving us to build our nest-homes with twigs we’ve stolen from the nearby ground brush.

Photograph: Ferris Wheel By Toni Bennett
Photograph: Ferris Wheel By Toni La Ree Bennett Fine Art Photography

Will she sweep the forest floor clean, only to plant new scrubs, already thorny and half-dead? Will we look at these collected bits of forest floor as ours? See ourselves reflected in the dew of grasses in a field where we don’t belong?

She casts a shadow over us, her massive wings, blackened with tar-ash weighing us down. There is no movement. We don’t dare to start.

Today this yarn, tomorrow that big fish. The lies become us, or is it that we become the lies? And what is Truth, that elusive, mysterious crystal flesh that floats in front of me, always out of reach? I dare not touch it; I’m not allowed to see it. I wouldn’t recognize it anyway.

What is the debt owed for a lifetime of lies?

An expectation of accountability is too much. Even if we handed her the steel wool to scrub clean the dirt-snares in the corners on her so-called side of the street, would it ever come clean? Lies don’t shine, no matter how hard one scrubs.

So I sit, perched, across from the piles of dirt and trash built up around me. Head cocked, I ruminate on the past. Memories are culled from grease spots in the air that hover close to my flesh. I nip at this, pinch at that, ball up the stories in my hand and hurl them through the air, somehow expecting her to throw back a new ball, red and bouncing with a fine truth so profound that forgiveness overtakes me, and I weep with gratitude. But this, it doesn’t happen.

There are bars all around me. I keep myself trapped here even though I broke the safety catch. It’s better that I remain, nestled in myself.


Sara J. Sutler-Cohen is a writer, editor, indexer, career coach, and part-time professor of sociology, ethnic studies, and cultural studies. Having had a smattering of creative and academic publications over the years, she's now working on a full-length memoir, two novels, a book of poems, a collection of short stories, and one cookbook. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, two teenagers, and a cat named Gimli, Son of Gloin, Cousin of Balin. More can be found about Sara at

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