Wednesday, February 29

Gosling

Face pillowed on her strong arms, she dreams. The long muscles of her legs twitch as she races around the long-vanished track, outpacing her girl-companions. They are all mothers, now, in the waking world. Even her, once. Now, though, there are only the dreams, brilliant tapestry patched together out of a thousand memories. After the race, a feast, the feast decreed by her father for the winner, roasted meat and bone, slick fat dripping onto the coals of many braziers and ascending in smoke to the gods.

In the way of dreams, by now she is no longer in her racing garb and no longer a child. She reclines comfortably at her father's table, the scent of the black broth, prize of warriors, wafting from boiling bowls, the edge of her hunger growing sharp. In this moment, she is refined, a precious blade from the north. Honed to perfection.

Here in her room, she is no longer sharp and ready, but curled loosely upon the cushions. Her well-muscled hands twitch after the dreamfood, and her rose-tinted lips part, a coral blush rising in her full cheeks. Her breath comes short now, and her muscles strain toward unfathomable delight. Her servants, her guards, turn away, fearful of visions sent by jealous Aphrodite, but we gaze on.

The table is set, groaning with the dishes of her youth, and she tucks in, greedy with long deprivation.

Soft and pungent cheese, drizzled with amber honey. Precious oil carried from the Athenian groves, golden-green and thick, grassy on the tongue. Crumbling wheat-cake and chopped herbs. Grilled figs, sour-sharp olives, tender meat and crisp pomegranate seeds. Wine, oh, wine, black like the sea until mixed with water from her favorite spring, wine that flowed redder than blood, redder than crimson, redder than madder-dyed cloth.

Twice-abducted Helen sleeps through the long, hot days. There, she cannot know regret for her vanished lifetimes. There, in the memory-court of Tyndareus, she devours the bread and wine of dreams. There, no husbands or suitors, no ill-tempered gods, no daughter and no siblings torment her with obligation, and even in the midst of war, there is no one who would grudge her this escape.

--
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, The Lime challenged me with "delicious food is involved", and I challenged Lance with "Detective Puppy and the Case of the Missing Knickerbockers".

Friday, February 24

isshoukenmei

一生懸命

Bright sun, shining through
rika-laden branch, compels:
shadows flee my heart.
--

Lichen blooms on elderly rock, oh! Sustenance!

--

Gentle white wing lofts
a view of discreet petals;
her fan beckoning.

--

Lucky bamboo, prisoned with rocks, invites--whose luck?

--

Without, sakura drift. Within, bare branches still.

--
Teikei (fixed-form) haiku for this month's format challenge at the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads.

Rika, 李花, ume (plum) blossoms, first harbingers of spring. Sakura, , cherry blossoms, full celebration of fleeting spring. Isshoukenmei, 一生懸命, to try one's very hardest, to do as best one can.

Thursday, February 16

Tosca

Ragged edges and fists pounding against the tiled tabletop. I choke on the tears. They're so raw and urgent that it feels like I've had a wad of cotton shoved rudely into my throat. I can't breathe. I can't speak out against this onslaught. You turn me around, whirl me around the empty center, and I can't tell what I'm feeling, if it's anger or loss.

This is why I disappear into words, into music and books and oil paints smeared in schizophrenic patterns on our empty white walls (sorry about that security deposit, by the way. I guess it doesn't matter now), because they are more real and more vivid than any piece of my life with you. Books are dreams I can fall into when you offer me nightmares.

It wasn't always this way! I know that, I still know that, and I have no idea how we got here. Wasn't I in love? Weren't you? I wish you could hear me, even if you refused to answer.

Later, when I am lying on the kitchen floor, curled around a handle of cheap vodka, I will think this isn't so bad. Later, when you have been gone for at least a day, I might not feel so hunted.

You said you felt trapped, and I guess I can understand that. That's my problem, too, only I'm actually caught in the trap. Some days I could tear at myself like any other animal caught in something it can't understand. Some days it's quiet in my head until you bring the clouds home with you, until you track in hate and fear, black rage-mud ground into white carpet.

I am afraid the stains will never come out of our floor. I wish I didn't have to wake up, but I'm afraid that I never will. I'm afraid of leaving and of staying and of being caught between. I don't know where to go or what to do with myself or how to live with this ending. I don't know how this happened. Maybe I am as crazy as you said. I can't think straight anymore. I'm afraid this is a dream and even more afraid that it might be real.

I'm afraid that a new day is going to come, and I will still be right where I began.

--
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Bran macFeabhail challenged me with "Listen to Monotov's Private Opera by Third Eye Blind and humour me with something bittersweet." and I challenged femmefauxpas with "Maybe it's a poltergeist!"



Monday, February 13

temenos

on this ash-smothered road,
at the top of a dead hill
there is no punctuation

some red corrections
smeared with bitten fingers,
pressed harsh into yellowed pages

and the year I left
wells up like poisoned water
on the verge of overflow.

step back, look away
from the brink, from the brimming.
I leave no stone unmarked
while evening's ink spills and splashes

around this circle gouged out of light.


Written for Marian's musical prompt at the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads.

Thursday, February 9

Pele Comes Devouring

This gorgeous image found at LUA Technologies' Tumblog.

The drums were pounding, louder than the earth's heartbeat sounding in the womb of Kilauea. The chanting on the crest of the House of the Moon carried deep into the caverns where Pele slept. The music and the drums, the cheering of the people, they drew her out, blinking and rubbing her eyes in the bright sun of the day.

Kahawali was chief of Puna, brightest and best, bold and sure. He stood atop the sleeping volcano they called the House of the Moon and looked at the people. Dancers swayed gently to the drums, decked in flowers. Wrestlers strained against each other, muscles turned into teak knots or rooted into the very earth. His people, he knew, were the best of all possible tribes, and he was the best of them. Kahawali was a proud chief, with wives and sisters and sons standing tall behind him, and his closest friend Ahua at his side.

The drums and music continued to build, and Kahawali gestured to Ahua, allowing him to begin first. Ahua's holua sled was second only to Kahawali-the-chief's, its gleaming wooden runners and narrow corded base sturdy and swift. Ahua lifted it high in the air and ran full-tilt at the holua course, flinging himself onto the sled at the very last second. The crowd breathed as one being and that is when Kahawali, proud and impetuous, took his run. He flew down the slope after Ahua, easily outdistancing his friend. The dancers cheered, the wrestlers shouted. The musicians played ever more loudly, and Pele drew nearer.

At the bottom of the slope, where a spear marked the end of the racing course, the two men laughed together. They picked up their holua sleds and began to hike back up the mountain. When they were halfway up the slope, Pele took the form of a woman of Puna, an elder, but common. She stepped out from behind the rock that hid her cave and planted herself in front of the noble pair.

"Let me take your sled," she said. "I want to race."

Astonished by the woman's presumption, the chief brushed past her without a reply. She appeared to crumple slightly, and Ahua helped her up the slope the rest of the way, to join the rest of the tribe at their festival. When Kahawali shouted to Ahua to hurry, saying that he wanted to race again, the woman grasped Ahua by the shoulder.

"I want to race," she said again.

Ahua was a kind soul. He smiled gently and handed Pele his holua sled, gesturing to the crest. "Please take my turn, honored elder." He turned back to the end of the course to mark the winner and Pele ascended to meet the chieftain once again.

Kahawali snorted when he saw the old woman approaching, but held his peace. There was no magnanimous head start this time. The chief and the old woman leapt for the course in the same heartbeat, equal in speed and skill. Kahawali was astonished and began to use every trick he knew, deftly weaving across the dormant cone, letting the wind rush across his body, waiting for the moment he could pick up speed.

And then it happened. The second-best sled that Pele had been given jumped--just a little--over a rock instead of sliding smoothly across it. The great goddess lost her balance and fell.

Kahawali laughed, loudly and derisively, as he slid into the end of the course. The people cheered. Pele, her disguise still intact, stood and brushed herself clean. Turning to the chief, she offered Ahua's sled, smiling.

"To be fair, now we should exchange sleds and run the course again," she said.

"Aole! You have no rank, woman," Kahawali cried. "You want me to exchange sleds? Are you my wife, that you should be allowed to touch royal property?" He turned and headed back up the slope once more.

Pele followed, remaining polite but insistent, growing ever more furious as the haughty chief continued to refuse, and even mock, her requests.

Kahawali ignored her and defiantly ran for a third time down the course, and that was it. Pele stamped her foot, her disguise falling away, and the people fell back in awe. Thunder rolled, and lightning struck wherever the goddess turned her wrathful eye.

The earth shook in warning, and Kahawali looked back over his shoulder. When he finally saw the true face of what he had been mocking, it was too late. The sleeping volcano had awakened, and Pele's wrath was boiling toward him, red, viscous, and relentless.

--
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Jester Queen challenged me with "Deftly, he wove in and out of the cones, letting the wind rush across his body, holding himself coiled for the moment when he could pick up speed." and I challenged Bran macFeabhail with "Earthy Watercolor Blog Mom meets Biting Invective, the Prime-Number Raccoon."


I didn't want to make this too long; it's already longer than my usual entries. However, the ending of this story is really the best part. I could go on with the many ways Kahawali attempts to escape Pele's wrath, but (spoiler alert) Ka wahine 'ai honua, the Woman who Devours the Land, eventually prevails. At one point, she even surfs down the volcanic cone on her revenge lava and hurls red-hot stones at him, killing everything he loves, including (I kid you not) his favorite pig. Hawaiian mythology is rich and fascinating. If you have some time to spare, you should check it out!

Thursday, February 2

Valentines

"Attention Barnes and Noble customers, the time is now 8:45. Our store will be closing in fifteen minutes. Please make your final selection and head to the register."

This is my cue to squat down behind the shelf marked "Computer and Technology" and look absorbed in the latest edition of XHTML for Dummies. The remaining stragglers, a few tweens in the Graphic Novel section that are trying way too hard to be different, begin to file down the stairs to the first floor and the long counter full of registers. Behind each register is a grim-eyed employee, smiling as hard as they can manage in this economy. They may hate their jobs and every customer they have to deal with, but they love that meager paycheck.

Heath is in the queue for the fifth register. The girl he's crushing on, Tish? She's six people ahead in the line, same as every Tuesday night for the past two months. I've watched every time. They always run into each other in the Science Fiction section. Once, Tish's hand lingered on a copy of Heretics of Dune just a few extra seconds, long enough for Heath to reach awkwardly for the same one and brush her fingers with his. This is what they do instead of dates. Neither of them are socially competent enough to even ask the other's name, let alone invite them for a cup of coffee, or Christ, to raid a dungeon with the other's guild.

It's okay, though. It's Valentine's Day, and Cupid is here for them.

I hunch behind the shelf and make a few necessary adjustments to the pistol crossbow in my coat. Ten minutes. If any employees are going to make a final round of the upstairs before closing, this is usually the time. I pull out a copy of Javascript and JQuery and bury my face in it, trying not to giggle at the stilted writing. I wonder who gets hired to write these things. Engineers, probably.

I read some incomprehensible programming instruction for five minutes, waiting for the next closing announcement. No one else wanders by, so I pull out my lovely little crossbow and take aim. I am a very good shot.

I have excellent timing, today--chubby, spotty Tish crumples lumpily to the floor just as her turn comes, and when Heath hikes up his ill-fitting pants to run to her side, I put my second gold-tipped bolt in his head. He falls flat on his face next to her instead, his sweaty hands flung out to her even as he's begun the involuntary shaking and jerking that follows massive brain trauma.

People are screaming and ducking for cover, but I've already made it down the stairs on the opposite side. I put my hands to my face and yell, "Oh my God," a few times. That gets me to the side of the building with the cafe exit, and no one's watching me anymore. They're watching Heath and Tish bleed out in unison, hearts pumping as one, together forever.

I adjust my coat and start whistling discreetly, but it's just too good, so I start to sing softly. "I've got you under my skin, hmm hmm hmm, I've got you deep in the heart of me. So deep in my heart that you're really a part of me..." I even do a little soft shoe to the Sinatra in my head on my way out the door.

True love is such a beautiful thing, I think to myself. I amble through the parking lot, in search of the next lucky couple.

--
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Lance challenged me with "At a Barnes and Noble book store in Daily, Georgia, Heath Dipolo is standing in line behind Tish Bejerano. Have them fall in love in 600 words." and I challenged M. Hunter with 
"'C'est le Diable qui tient les fils qui nous remuent!
Aux objets répugnants nous trouvons des appas;
Chaque jour vers l'Enfer nous descendons d'un pas,
sans horreur, à travers des ténèbres qui puent.'

--Charles Baudelaire, 'Au Lecteur'"