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.

To Butterflies

image: Pixabay

My brother’s death-day is today, so the Independence Day holiday is always a little skewed for our family. After he was killed, I started seeing Monarch butterflies everywhere. This poem is for him.

 

To Butterflies

The harsh rend of my regrets

torn into paper shards

flutter into your scooped out hole

where heated scents of pine linger

on the cusp of summer’s silhouette

edging the cemetery’s newest stone.

 

I lay beneath the blue blossoms

white roots dangling like lace

over your tattered wishes.

I would bury my yearning

in the dark and fecund loam

soak it with my tears.

 

Death holds us lightly

life persisting with unfettered intensity

in spite of mourning

your Forget Me Nots flourish

blue petals transformed though we both will stray

to butterflies

take wing and soar.

**

I wish all my American friends a wonderful July 4th celebration. Wherever you are in the world, enjoy your families and friends and hold them tight. ❤

The Rose Shield – Kari’s Reckoning

Catling’s Bane, the first book in The Rose Shield tetralogy is nearing the finish line, and unless some unforeseen computer meltdown halts all progress, it should be out… next week!

The rest of the books are slogging their way through my list of double-checks including Book 4: Kari’s Reckoning. Below is a little snippet. I took out the important names – so no hints (and a few extra pronouns). Stay tuned.

Kari’s Reckoning

He carved woads into his own skin, scored his cheeks and hairline, sliced grooves into his chest and arms. He notched his ears and slashed his shoulders and thighs. Blood ran down his legs and arms, dripped from his chin and fingers. He flayed Guardian’s dagger from his forearm and would have found another place to carve if Lian hadn’t ripped his knife from his hands and flung it into the forest.

The Farlander heaved him up and carried him to the pond. The water glowed and whirled, rich with luminescence. He staggered into the freezing fluidity and lay down, sinking beneath the surface. The light retracted and surged back, clung to his skin, and burrowed into his flesh. His wounds burned. Luminescence swirled with his blood, entered his veins, and lit him like a brand. He rose for a breath and sank again, eyes open, his vision filled with divine brightness.

The world spoke to him, not with words but emotion, an ancient message extending back through eternal time. His blood leached out, blending with the planet’s soul, every fiber connected across the land and water and air, the living and dead. The world drew on his life, tasted its richness, and integrated him into the pattern. Life surged around him and exploded into him, unstoppable and larger than he and those he lost, all of them forever part of the whole. The sensation was love, but not the feeling of love. All the emotions, fear and sadness, joy and pleasure, anger, and passion blended into the rich and poignant elixir of life.

He gasped for breath and floated, his irises reflecting the three moons and a night drowned in stars. The fire in his veins abated and the sting in his wounds faded. The owl called its lonely song. He closed his eyes and rested in the cold light.

Next Week!

The Swan #writephoto

sue-vincent-prompt

The reaper perches on her bedpost, obsidian feathers secreted in the ebony of night. Below him, the woman lies supine, one leg extended, toes pointed. Her thin arms arch upward in a dream, supple as wings in spite of the brittleness of her bones. He understands her grace, the persistence of her soul’s dance.

Moderato e maestoso. Her lips part as Tchaikovsky swells in her head. The scène finale. The reaper cranes forward, immersed in the sublime pathos of the song. She dips her chin in gratitude, elegant white feathers and fingers cupping her heart. The reaper weeps and splays his black wings. Her dream ripples across the lake and she glides into the golden light, forever a swan.

**

Thanks to Sue Vincent of the Daily Echo for another mesmerizing #writephoto Thursday prompt.