Go Gently into that Good Night

My dear sweet mother is nearing the end of her life, and I find myself suddenly dashing for the airport. I will be away from the blog for a few weeks.

This beautiful poem and the accompanying photos by Sue Vincent speak eloquently of the arc of life as expressed through flowers. I encourage you to read it to the end. I have closed comments here, simply because I would feel obligated to reply, and my heart is elsewhere. But trust that I know you wish me peace and comfort. Please enjoy this stunning poem.

Flowers

There were always flowers.

Orchids pinned upon a mother’s breast,

All lace and diamonds.

Long black gloves

And painted lips,

As she left, laughing.

A child who watched

As the door closed.

There were flowers…

Yellow tulips,

Cellophane and ribbon

A girl who blushed

As the curtain fell

Upon the stage;

She cradled them,

A first bouquet.

There were flowers

Roses and lilies

White, in hands and hair,

Their fragrance mingled…

 

Continue reading at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

 

 

Summit – #Writephoto

#writephoto image: Sue Vincent

The cane wobbled. Its tip slipped, wedged between two stones, and stuck. Morten grumbled and shuffled up a step. His grandson was born with the brains of a turnip if he thought an old man could climb the steep path in a day. “A sacred site, pretty view, and perfect breeze,” the boy had explained. Morten would need to grow wings to reach the fort’s grassy summit before nightfall.

He thrust out his cane, planted it, and heaved himself up another step. The voices behind him grew louder, the crowd gaining on him. Resigned to his predicament, he twisted aside and backed up to the low wall flanking the path. His balance akilter, he landed his bony rump on the flat rock, lucky he didn’t tip backward and tumble down the hill. His cane clattered on the stone pavers.

The younger folk—his seventy-year-old daughter and her husband, his gaggle of grandchildren and stampede of great-grandies—hiked up the path. His daughter stooped to pick up the cane. “What is dad’s cane doing here?”

Her husband patted her shoulder. “Someone must have dropped it. We’ll bring it up.”

“Ahem!” Morten protested, but the troop resumed their march, paying him no mind and stranding him where he sat. He leaned forward, rocked, and pushed to his feet. With a grunt of effort, he straightened up, though “straight” was purely a matter of perspective.

He shambled farther up the path, knees creaking and fingers inching along the top of the wall. The breeze felt good, and the view was spectacular even though he hadn’t reached the top. After a short distance, the path smoothed and seemed less steep, and he abandoned the security of the wall. He took a few confident steps, and satisfied, added a bit of spring to his gait. He swung his arms and inhaled a deep breath. His pace increased, a renewed vigor thrumming through his heart.

He considered dancing a merry little a jig but dismissed the thought as overzealous. Instead, he picked a handful of summer flowers from the bank and waltzed like a groom on his wedding day. His wife appeared at the path’s peak and laughed, the clouds framing her like downy wings. He winked at her, smiling like a fool in love, surefooted, his life in bloom. The urge to run tickled at his toes, and he leapt into a strong lope, the muscles in his limbs stretching, his arms pumping, his vision clear and soul awake.

His wife opened her arms and received him. At the summit, his grandson smiled as a gust of wind gathered up the ashes from the lifted urn.

***

The image is from Sue Vincent’s Thursday #Writephoto prompt. Join in the fun.

Milkweed: #Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge

pixabay image

Once again, I’m giving Colleen’s #Tanka Tuesday #Poetry Challenge a try (honestly, it’s addictive). This time with a haibun/tanka. The prompts were (synonyms for) green and magic. I didn’t know if they were supposed to be in the haibun or the tanka, so I put them in both.

Milkweed

I spiral in a wisp of breeze, an airy fluff of seed unnoticed by the whorl of pollen shimmering in fat sunbeams. The fecund world undulates and exhales. Ribbons of heat flutter in the willow’s leaves and seduce the crickets into a sultry chant. Chaos dances with the bees, bearing me on my journey, I know not where. This masterpiece is woven of random notes and steps, yet, I perceive a conjuring of harmony, a sublime pattern of unfurling precision. I am meant to twirl in languid beauty to the earth.

Bountiful mother
Breathe a summer’s requiem
Spin me in the wind
As beguiled I pirouette
And await my spring’s rebirth

October

My backyard

I wrote this poem during my first fall in Oregon. It was inspired by the 10-mile drive from town to my home along Highway 47, one of many roads here that takes my breath away.

October

If I drive off the road of life
know I was distracted by the wilderness
gazing for a moment at gilded leaves
arched against jagged boughs of evergreen.
 
Perhaps I beheld a quilted river
of fallen crimson and vermillion
winding along the roadside
vine maples blazing in random rays of sun.
 
Had I gazed into the weave and texture of leaves
layers interlaced, sharp and dense against the sky?
Or the rain glistening, black branches of the forest bending
silhouetted by canopies of countless green.
 
Did I glimpse dry fields of weeds,
browning blades and flyaway seeds
the river meandering, my roadside companion
a tapestry of quiet color before me?
 
If I soar off the road of life
and fail to rise
know that I drove distracted by the wilderness
and my eyes brimmed with beauty.

***

Just a note that Catling’s Bane is free today until the 29th.

Soul Swallower – new series WIP

I think that’s the name of the series. I like the alliteration anyway. Better than Soul Gulper.

Perhaps you remember the character Raze from one of Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompts. Well, he’s back with a series of his own.

I don’t have too much to share yet, but here’s a brief peek at the act of swallowing a soul:

***

When the others retired, Raze sat by the hearth, its flames dwindling to scarlet embers. His grief for Briyon unearthed old ghosts, his mother among them, an ageless portrait suspended in the gallery of his mind. Not so his memories of Mirelle. Those lingered with infinite fluidity, entangled with visions of the past and dreams of a future that would never be.

Six years had shuffled by since her death, five since he’d joined Briyon at the freehold, and no lever had proved long or strong enough to pry her from his heart. Loneliness invaded his body so deeply it punched the breath from his lungs and sapped the strength from his back, and no hoping and wishing could bring those people back. A twenty-one he was master of the freehold, a tired soul, angry at a world he couldn’t control.

He turned the pendant over in his hand, keenly aware of its delicate beauty. The white soulstone had transformed, no longer solid but translucent with pale wisps of color swirling like morning mist. Copper wire the breadth of a strand of hair coiled around it, holding a round sliver of peridot in place with a final twist of two tiny leaves. It glowed with a soft light, indicating the presence of a soul. A soul he loved.

With great care, he unhooked the copper leaves, unwound the wire, and removed the green gem that capped a small hole. Inside, an iridescent sphere resembling a pearl shone with a brilliance that startled him. Were all souls so bright? He didn’t know; this was his first. He rolled it into his hand. Would he swallow it? Did he want what Briyon offered? Was there anything to fear?

The pearl of light glowed in his palm, offering no insight. He placed it back into the pendant. No need to choose; no decision pressed him to act with haste. The round gem refitted, he coiled the wires, paused, and then uncoiled them. In one fluid motion, he uncapped the pendant, tipped the sphere into his mouth, and swallowed.

A rush of heat streamed from his belly, up through his heart into his head and down his limbs to his fingers and toes. His body trembled, the sensation alien, but not frightening, and not long lived, for it subsided as quickly as it had overtaken him. Eyes closed, he accepted Briyon’s soul. In the quiet of night, he exhaled a long breath, crept to bed, and dreamed another man’s dreams.

Sight #Writephoto

The enemy showed up at the wall when autumn’s copper leaves twirled from brittle twigs and food ran shy. I slid my rifle from the borehole and dug in my pocket for a wedge of bread and wafer of dried fish I’d saved from my rations. The offering all I could spare, I reached into the cold tunnel, and my fingers lingered on the girl’s hand. She smiled, her pupils like glistening pebbles in pools of bronze.

Sisi buka nash corazones, ee?” she said in a language I couldn’t understand.

“You’re welcome,” I whispered. “You should go now.”

But I didn’t let go. She tilted her head, eyes crinkled in question. And as she did each day, she peered through the hole, and her voice lured me from the desolation of war. She told me stories in her strange tongue, soft words sharing blushed secrets and dreams. Her laughter rippled toward me, and at times, tears tumbled into the stream of words. She wiped her cheeks on the worn sleeves of her ruby dress, and I stroked her hand, yearning for her warmth through that dark stone hole.

I didn’t shoot her.

With the first snows, our officers issued fresh orders and we cleaned our rifles. I rested the barrel in the hole and waited. Bullets weighted my pocket beside the bread, and my fingers froze. She came with the others across the muted green of a beautiful and barren world.

“Ready!” my captain shouted.

Rifles clacked against the stones along the line. I raised my gun and sighted. Her red dress shone like a brand.

“Aim!”

She danced across the broken land, her eyes smiling into the black hole between us.

“Fire!”

I shot wide and high. She halted and stared at my borehole while those around her screamed and fled. Weapons barked like feral dogs; light flickered in the pocked blackness as we shrieked. The torrent of noise swamped my senses, and I shot through the hole until my rifle ran dry, shouting at her to run as tears blistered my eyes. Blood bloomed on her dress. She staggered backwards and pitched to the ground, snowflakes chasing her down.

Through the bitter winter, I stood vigil at my borehole, watching crows feast and snow frost the red silhouette of her body. In the spring, the last tatters of her ruby dress fluttered away in the wind, and I watched over her bones.

I don’t think I shot her, but she was just as dead.

***

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the wonderful prompt, despite where it took me.

***

Forgive me for this very rough translation of the girl’s words:
We (Swahili)
open (Indonesian)
our (Russian)
hearts (Spanish)
yes? (Arabic)

Peace – #Writephoto

In the end, I returned to the sanitarium. This time by choice and without the reams of commitment papers, the hustling of orderlies, and motherly coaxing of nurses. The baby-blue walls and polished linoleum shine with familiarity, and the bars feel less restrictive than I remember.

I wander the halls with a certain air of freedom, considering my state. The same doctors make rounds in their cliched white coats and spectacles. Clipboards hang on hooks bolted to metal doors, and fluorescent lights hum in group-counseling like a chorus of wasps.

Despite the harsh glare of the world inside these walls, I’d found healing here. It came with compassion, by listening to stories with a crack in my heart, by risking a touch, a tear, an act of kindness. Not toward me, but toward others. Healing wasn’t about banishing my demons, a goal that had led me astray for years. It was grounded in the audacity to love, and I’d found my courage like a tidal wave.

I pass through the locked doors into the yard, and no one minds. The heat doesn’t bother me anymore, nor the cold, though today’s a brilliant day. At the rear of the grounds, a leafy glade snuggles up against the stone wall separating us from a less forgiving world. It once was a place for smoking or sex, but cameras curbed that urge, and now a bench offers a place for solitude and reflection.

This place suits me, and I plan to stay. I could travel anywhere in the world I wish, but my calling is here. Alone on the bench, I wait.

A woman heads my way. She’s thin, her skin sallow and eyes so tired they appear bruised. One arm wraps her body, and fingers twitch on chapped lips. She doesn’t see me, but I witness a cloud of despair encasing her like a thunderhead and a soul as bright as the sun. She sits beside me, and I enclose her in my arms, sate her need for love and peace. I open a crack in her heart.

In doing so, I receive more than I give and begin to heal my last regret—that my life’s purpose manifested with such sublime clarity only upon my death.

**

Thanks to Sue Vincent for another wonderful Thursday Photo Prompt.