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“All Alive”



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In his stunning essay “Night Song”, Stephen Kuusisto describes his experience as a boy who is blind, alone, encountering a horse in the barn near his childhood home. Read the following description—bear with the long excerpt; it’s worth it!—noting how Kuusisto delivers a world to us through the other four senses, particularly sound. With Kuusisto as your inspiration and guide, write about one of your own childhood memories, describing an experience through sensory details. For further inspiration, check out these phenomenal examples by Community Ambassadors seaomelette and sci-Fi!
 
A blind kid rarely sleeps. Small blind people hear a hundred sounds and learn early to make analogies. I hear the trees that surround our New Hampshire house. A spruce sways in the wind and so I think a door is opening, a door with rusted hinges and locks.
At sunup while my parents sleep I dress quickly and slip from the house. I walk through a meadow, blindly following patterns of light and shade until I reach the university's horse barn. Somewhere in all this cool emptiness a horse is breathing. He sounds like water going down a drain.
I take one step forward into a pyramid of fragrances.
What a thing! To be a young boy smelling hay and leather and turds!
What a thing!
And the horse gurgles like water in the back of a boat.
Mice scurry like beaded curtains disturbed by a hand.
I stand in this magical nowhere and listen to the full range of sounds in a barn.
I am a blind child approaching a horse!
Behind me a cat mews.
Who would guess that horses sometimes hold their breath?
The horse must be eyeing me from his corner.
Now two cats are talking.
Wind pushes forcefully at the high roof.
Somewhere up high a timber creaks.
My horse is still holding his breath.
When will he breathe again?
Come on, boy!
Breathe for me!
Where are you?
I hear him rubbing his flank against a wall.
And now he breathes again with a great deflation!
He sounds like a fat balloon venting in swift circles. And now I imitate him with my arm pressed to my lips.
I make great flatulent noises by pressing my lips to my forearm.
How do you like that, horse?
He snorts.
I notice the ringing of silence. An insect travels between our bursts of forced air.
Sunlight heats my face because I'm standing in a long sun-beam.
I am in the luminous whereabouts of horse! I am a very small boy and I have wandered about a mile from home. Although I can see colors and shapes in sunlight, in the barn I am completely blind.
But I have made up my mind to touch this horse.
Judging by his breathing, his slow release of air, that sound of a concertina, judging by this, I am nearly beside him. And so I reach out and there is the great wet fruit of his nose, the velvet bone of his enormous face. And we stand there together for a little while, all alive and all alone.