Saturday, September 17, 2011

It Feels Like Fall

It feels like fall today -
the sun has that honey light,
and the trees,
they're just starting to turn.
It must be fall, right?

It feels like fall today -
the air is crisp and clean,
but my garden,
it still has flowers,
and the weeds are nice and green.

It feels like fall today -
the start of something new,
and the days
they have that changing feel,
like September's supposed to -
hope I'm not just wishing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time
I told a tale
I did not hear
that hot wind wail,
setting sail
across a sea of obsession.

But here I sit
and hear the sound
of magic whirling
round and round
image, symbol,
word unbound
the engine of my travels.

Between the stars
and midnight sea
I sail to find
just what can be
teased into
words of fantasy
one keystroke at a time.

into tale -
the words, they own me
as I sail.
They push me into
What If's gale -
the telling has my soul.

Friday, August 12, 2011

One of These Days

One of those days
I sit and ponder
the odd images
that stream
through my mind
the touch
of raw wool
running through
my fingers
that almost
no one remembers
the feel
of wet sand
on a winter's day
thinking of
what I would
rather be doing
and realize
just how
not normal
my normal
has turned out to be.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


What's the scariest story you ever read? I read all sorts of disaster/true crime/horror stuff, but the one story that gave me the most willies must have been Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream." (If you don't know, this is the piece the Terminator series bounced off of.)

I read it first when I was a kid. I think I was ten or eleven. I was busily devouring my dad's stash of SF novels, a lonely kid who loved the geewhiz mindboggling but rational escape early and mid 60s SF was filled with.

It was in a collection of short stories. I don't remember the name of the anthology. But I remember feeling the helplessness of the group of people who were caught in this machine as toys to be tortured, and the fate of the narrator. Must have represented perfect hell to me at that time, cause when I bring back the memory of my reaction, I still get the willies.

Good piece of writing, that.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


It was a warm, sultry, summer’s night. The breeze that blew in through the window, lifting gauzy curtains, carried the hint of rain, making the hot night feel even warmer. The man and woman in the room, however, were too occupied to notice much. Stretched out on the bed, the covers thrown aside, their nude bodies were highlighted by the light of a dim lamp off in the corner. They glimmered with a fine sheen of sweat.

The woman arched up as her partner touched her. “Please, Tim,” she said, her voice full of need. She was beautiful in her hunger, raven hair cascading over the edge of the bed, her breath ragged, her eyes heavy-lidded with want.

The man beside her smiled and let his fingers skirt over the warmth of her tummy, drawing circles around her navel, to just above the dark patch of hair shrouding her womanhood. He bent over and let his tongue flick the delicate cup, wrenching a small gasp from her.

“Please what, Maya?” he asked, his voice low and teasing. He began to trail his mouth up towards her breasts. One hand, though, dipped between her spread thighs, dancing across the soft skin, avoiding her hot center.

She tugged on his hand, trying to draw it up to the part of her that ached to be touched, but he escaped her grasp effortlessly, and gave her a small grin. “Oh no,” he said. “You’re not getting off that easy.”

He rolled half on top of her. Neither of them noticed how the wind blowing through the window picked up speed, or how the breeze had suddenly grown much cooler, perhaps because he was busy assaulting her earlobe, then trailing a string of wet kisses down her throat. She moaned under his assault, oblivious.

Suddenly, there was a loud clap of thunder, startling them both. They froze, both looking toward the window. The first clap was followed by another. Lightning flashed nearby and for a split second illuminated the room, followed shortly afterwards by a loud boom.

“Damn,” he said, rolling off his wife. “Better get ready.” He grabbed at his boxers, tossed a blue gown in her direction, and pulled the sheet over them.

“Maybe...” she said, slipping into the garment.

Suddenly, there was a pounding at the door. “Daddy! Daddy! The sky’s going boom!” said the voice of a small child. “I’m scared!”

“Maybe nothing, he said. He gave her one last, heated look. “You’re not out of it yet, though. We’ll finish this later.” He got up and walked to the door. “I’m coming, Bubby.”

“I hope so,” she said, and got ready to comfort her son.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Brain Thinks It's Saturday

My brain thinks it's Saturday,
don't ask me why.
I looked at the window
almost ready to cry
when I realize the week
has just barely begun.
My brain thinks it's Saturday
and the week's nearly done.

Yep, my brain thinks its Saturday
with nothing much to do
except go shopping or read
or paint the bathroom bright blue.
Forget about work
and forget about chores
cause my brain thinks it's Saturday --
maybe go play outdoors.

So tomorrow is Wednesday,
Not Sunday, oh my.
Will I wake up tomorrow
unconfused and not try
to do all my Sunday things
sleep late and eat brunch,
cause I think today's Saturday --
or will I pack a light lunch?

When Saturday's Tuesday,
what's left in the week?
Four more days till my body
gets it right - dare I peek
into a new schedule
with Saturdays galore.
No, since my brain thinks it's Saturday,
let me sleep! Close the door!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Word Magic

Ah, the words, their lovely sound
weaving, weaving round and round -
oh and ah and eh and ee
keeping pleasant company
moving through the beat of time,
magic in their lovely rhyme.
Assonance you are my friend,
binding things until the end.

Ah, the words, their lovely sound
weaving, weaving round and round -
t and r and s and p
strong sounds like an ancient tree,
your beat resounds into the night
to carry meaning to my sight.
Consonance strong and true
makes the sounds do what they do.

Ah the words, their lovely sound
weaving, weaving round and round -
rhythm, made of pause and stress,
laughing child with golden tress,
you bring the magic dance to frame
meaning in its golden game.
Ah the words, their lovely sound
weaving, weaving round and round.

Sing of love or sing of pain,
sing of laughter in the rain,
sing of hope or sing a groan,
magic's in the word's own tone -
weave a dream by candlelight,
spin a nightmare in our sight.
Ah, the words, their lovely sound
make it happen, round and round.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Contemplating Helen

Run your fingers through the dusky wool, Lady,
colored rich purple by the death of snails
combed soft and fine,
oiled with the best
to wrap around your distaff
and pull into a fine thread
by the twirling of your golden spindle.

Royal purple, the color of congealed blood -
do you think of him sometimes,
the beautiful man who stole you away,
and how the blood streamed down his throat
from the arrow's flight?

Royal purple - you know the cost of its weight.
As you look upon the man who would not let you go,
who turned the world upside down
for the green hills of your birth,
where he sits, content,
king of the country he received as a wedding gift,
does the purple make you remember
the spilled blood,
the smell of fire and the sound of tears
wailed into the afterworld?

I watch your kohl-rimmed eyes,
and see your shining hair,
and your smile revealing nothing as you drop your spindle,
pull down the thread,
and I wonder what tale your own lips would give
if you, and not the poets,
had recorded your adventure.

Friday, April 29, 2011

First Kiss

Their foreheads meet as one in gentle touch,
Her hand on his, his fingers holding tight,
Shutting out the world that asks too much
For them to share a minute of their night.
He brings a single finger to her lip,
She tilts her head to look into his eyes
And gives a gentle kiss to fingertip,
Then happily she smiles at him and sighs.
In tender exploration, his lips brush hers,
So hesitant, his fingers find her cheek -
Their hearts begin to beat in nervous tremors,
Their glances meet again as knees grow weak
As tawny eyes and blue gaze lovingly
Curtained there by locks of blonde and ebony.

Of Circles and Salt

my touch
underneath the moonlight,
delicately tracing
and curves.

your skin
wrapped in midnight shadow -
I taste you once
and then
taste you again.

my breathing -
I cannot keep eyes open
sinking deeply

your cry -
reaching the peak,
we fall back
into the night.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Along the River: A Lyric

I stand beside the water,
by the water
by the river
I stand beside the water
as it rushes to the sea.
Its voice is sweet and calming
as it flows by
as it goes by
its voice is sweet and calming
as it slips between the trees.

The geese call as they gather
there above it
glide into it
the geese call as they gather
then noisily fly on.
The willow trees, they murmur
bending over
leaning over
the willow trees, they murmur
as the water slips along.

I wonder what its song says
to the trees there
to the rocks there
I wonder what its song says
to the things that call it home.
Does it sing of where it started,
in the mountains,
snowfall's fountains
does it sing of where it started,
or of where it goes to roam?

I stand beside the water,
by the water
by the river
I stand beside the water
as it rushes to the sea.
Its voice is sweet and calming
as it flows by
as it goes by
its voice is sweet and calming
as it slips between the trees.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Autumn on the Water

Deafening the sound,
a thousand wings whirring as one,
feather and muscle
beating against the air
in their hurry to escape -
they drown out my thoughts
as we paddle into the pond
and the ducks take flight.

A lone hen left behind
cackles her feeding call for a moment,
then quack, quack, quack,
she too lifts from the water,
flies away,
and leaves me alone
with the gentle slurp of my kayak paddle,
and an echo of wind in my hair.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


when he is alone in his thoughts,
standing there in the open ground underneath a warming sun,
and the air is still and quiet,
the wind comes up, unexpectedly,
and nuzzles against his neck,
kissing his ears,
playing with his hair,
caressing his cheek
and he remembers her fiery eyes,
and the softness of her voice,
and unspoken longings,
the whiteness of her bosom,
his final loss.

Something in him stirs, then, at those moments,
and he pauses,
thinking briefly of the might have beens
that were not,
that could not be,
that did not happen,
and knows the touch of regret.
Then, like the wind,
sometimes, he sighs.

Monday, April 18, 2011

One Day Before the Tide Changed

He walked along the rocks
in the cool spring air,
ignoring the wind in his hair,
and how it tugged on his clothes.
He stopped to scratch his nose
and looked out over the horizon,
to where the sea met the sky,
and watched.

As he listened to the waves
and the seabirds crying
as they circled, flying
almost out of sight
he did not know why
he felt so restless -
the day left him breathless,
captured by the old magic
of wind and wave and light.

He thought for a moment
of his garden and his books
and the way his wife looks
when he talks of poetry,
and thought about Prufrock,
who talked of mermaids in the sea,
and fog and things that would not be,
and wondered about tomorrow.

Turning to go,
he did not see the shadowed shape
run her comb one last time
while he recited a hopeless rhyme
through perfect green hair,
then slip off the rocks into the sea
pondering the unknown mystery
of land and tree and earth,
the strange songs only humans sang.

They both went on their way,
he to the land, she to the bay
back to their ordinary lives
touched by the shoreline's magic.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Conversation with Time

Has it been so long ago,
those nights,
nights when I danced for hours
to the loud beat
and the flashing lights,
glittering over the swaying bodies,
rich with the smell of smoke
and beer
and sweat
and lust
all wrapping around the music?

I tell you, Time,
the me in here
remembers just how it felt
to have the music
and the movement
take me places
beyond the taste of bourbon
and the flashing lights
and dreams of youth
and expectation.

I know you’ve heard it all before,
but still,
I cling to the memory,
and as the river of my life passes on,
I'm still the girl
who could dance all night
lost in the music,
and even as I sit and knit
and watch the minutes tick into hours,
I can be there again with just a thought.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Heroes (In Praise of Fantasy)

(This is in response to a review of "Game of Thrones" by Ginia Bellafonte, where she implies only boys like fantasy stories. Fantasy is one of my best beloved genres. I was rather irritated.)

So many heroes with swords in my head,
Crashing and bashing and waking the dead,
Heroic in leather, heroic in silk,
In plate and in chain and in stuff of that ilk,
Sigurd the brave, Cuchulain so fair,
Brian Boru boldly alone standing there,
Ulysses the cunning, Achilles the strong --
With heroes like these, how can any go wrong?
See them stand, see them howl--Beowulf joins the fight,
Grendal's bane saving Hrothgar in his armor so bright.
There's Roland, near forgotten, with his long sounding horn,
Lancelot alone looking lost and forlorn,
Still they come, still they come, with their swords shining bright,
Come to rescue the weak, or just to have a fight,
Xena and Sonja, women of steel
come hither to fight or to just cut a deal,
Conan and Kull, nearly twins in their might,
The Eternal Champion fighting well through the night,
Tempus and Elric and the Gray Mouser so bold,
With Fafhrd to help him steal all my gold,
Samurai heroes with swords shiny and bright,
Shadow warriors spinning red dreams through my line of sight.
The noise of them clashing, the sounds of each clash
Go echoing on as they hit and they bash.
Bring it on, bring it on, with bravado so bold -
My favorite stories! You'll never grow old.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


His eyes glinted in the soft light,
shining and warm,
hinting at some mischief
as he wrapped his arms around her.

“No?” he asked,
leaning close,
letting his warm breath
tease her cheek,
brush across her ear,
touch her neck.
He smiled a little
as he felt her shiver.

She looked down
at her folded hands
leaning against his chest,
not wanting to meet his eyes.
He slipped a hand over them,
then tightened his hold
around her with the other.

“Please?” he asked,
running one large finger
under her chin,
tilting up her head,
but still,
determined not to be persuaded so easily,
she kept her eyes firmly shut.

His lips brushed against hers,
feather light at first,
warm and coaxing,
one hand sliding around her neck.
As he deepened the kiss,
he could feel her resistance waver,
her body relaxing against his,
her mouth responding to his,
one hand shyly leaving its berth against his chest
to slide beneath his hair,
keeping him close.

“For me?” he breathed,
breaking the kiss,
then kissing the tip of her nose.

She glanced up at him,
her blue-grey eyes looking at him sternly,
even as a wry smile touched her lips
and she tried not to giggle.
“Yes, yes, I’ll rub your back,”
she conceded
with mock exasperation.

He kissed her again,
warm, lovingly,
but in large part because
he did not want her to see
the smug victory written in his eyes
and in his smile.

Still, he could not see
her own hidden smile -
she got just what she wanted
out of their negotiations.

Friday, April 8, 2011


The water spirit
breaks through the white blanket
he slept beneath
as the spring sunshine tickles his nose,
then flows slowly down the mountainside
into the valleys,
drip by melted drip,
swelling rivulets into cold running streams
leaving a wave of green in his wake
marked with a splash of flowers.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Teasing Spring

Spring, you sly season,
how you tease me today –
there’s still snow on the mountain,
to warn me away,
but the air is so warm,
and there are buds on the trees,
And the birds are out singing–
you so love to tease.

Spring, you sly season,
daffodils are in bloom,
and the clouds are all puffy,
not dark Winter’s gloom,
and I long to be walking
feel the warmth of the breeze –
Dare I hope to believe it?
You so love to tease.

Spring, you sly season,
I see new leaves on the rose,
it’s too warm for my scarf
and something tickles my nose.
And I want to get busy,
getting down on my knees,
planting flowers for summer –
You so love to tease.

Spring, you sly season,
dark Winter’s bright child,
your smile, it is merry
and your soft touch is mild.
You so love to play me,
but Spring, if you please,
be certain you’re staying.
You so love to tease!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mountain Afternoon

The wind roared in the pine trees
from time to time as I watched
the last patches of snow
on the mountainside
turn to mush,
and trickle down into the creek.

a branch fell from a dead tree,
and a raven cawed,
and I contemplated
the World Tree
and Thought and Memory,
Odin's storm crows,
and the ways of fate
and wisdom
and sunshine scattering like diamonds
on the lake below.

And the wind roared,
and the snow melted,
and the stream flowed.

Some things, after all,
take care of themselves.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Change of Season

The wind dances around me
beneath a blue sky
and the wind chimes sing
their metallic cry,
and I stare at the mountain
and wonder why
I feel on edge and quite restless.

The willow withies
dance like long green hair
caressed by the wind
in the cool spring air,
and the apples have bloomed
with a pale white flair,
but I stand here, alone, quite restless.

O robin, O dove,
O hawk flying low,
you know what to do,
you know where to go.
I watch the river
as the spring waters flow,
like me, they flow by, quite restless.

The snow on the mountain
melts quickly away,
My tulips are blooming
and long grows the day.
I ought to be working,
or at least trying to play,
But instead, I stand here quite restless.

Monday, March 21, 2011

You Stood in the Garden

O daughter, dear daughter,
your hair was so red,
you stood in the garden,
but the roses had fled,
yes, the roses had fled
and their petals had blown.
You stood in the garden
so sad and alone.

O daughter, dear daughter,
the sky was so gray
as you stood in the garden
that dark lonely day,
that dark lonely day
in the dress you had sewn.
You stood in the garden
so sad and alone.

O daughter, dear daughter
the letter was white
that you read in the garden
alone, out of sight,
alone, out of sight
when you started to moan.
You stood in the garden
so sad and alone.

O daughter, dear daughter,
your heart grew so black,
when you read how he wrote
he was not coming back
he was not coming back -
like a bird, he had flown.
You stood in the garden
so sad and alone.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Pause in the Hike

He feels the touch of it,
the magic,
here in the mountains
as they sit on a rock,
resting for a moment
beneath a blue sky.

pouring over them like a benediction,
caught up in the flow of water,
and the call of birds singing,
and the wind in the pines,
and the gentle smile of the woman in his arms.
Wrapped up in the simple joy of the day,
he silently thanks the spirits of the place,
and kisses his wife.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Ah, ocean -
heaving grey-green mystery,
wine-dark in your hidden depths
where all is black abyss filled with hidden lights,
I have seen you opaque olive,
filled with the silt of ages,
diamond scattered when the light is right,
crystal clear blue sometimes,
making the heart ache
in your perfection
and immensity,
foaming wall of water sweeping all away,
indescribable cradle of life.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Hawk and the Castle at the World's End, Chapter 1

"My mother used to tell me when I was a small boy that fairs were the most amazing, wondrous, messy things," the redheaded mercenary said as he stared out of the pavilion, watching the sea of tents and people pass in front of him.

"Your mother was a wise woman, Hawk," said a voice behind him.

"Sometimes, Master Emrys" Hawk said.

He turned to smile at the speaker, who was sitting on a chair like it was a throne. Portly, and dressed in a dignified garment of gray trimmed in red, Emrys looked every bit the merchant, with a well-groomed beard that tapered into a vee, and observant, clear green eyes. Surrounded by a display of fine fabrics still yet unsold, his arm was draped across a length of blue silk. Emrys caressed it with a gloved hand absentmindedly, as if it were a cat.

Hawk crossed mail-clad arms. The metal links rustled. "She was right about the messy, that's for sure. As for other things, like the choice for my father, well, opinions differ."

Emrys laughed. "Well, we'll be out of the mess soon as we can tomorrow. It'll be good to get home for a while. This whole journey was," he said, gesturing to the unsold lengths of cloth piled around him, "not quite what I hoped for."

"Blame the weather. Too much rain," Hawk said.

"Wet fairs do not fill up the purse," Emrys said, agreeing. "Unless you're selling rain cloaks. At least the sun's finally out. We'll get to leave in the dry."

"There's that," Hawk said. He pulled off his leather cap, ran a finger around the brim, and put it back on, pulling his long red braid back in place as he did. "Don't know if this old cap would handle another day's rain."

"I have one I can sell you," Emrys said, smirking. "Even trimmed in black fur. Only cost you two days work."

Hawk snorted and just shook his head. He was saved from further comment when two customers walked into the booth, a tall and agitated man, who clutched his purse nervously, and his stout but excited wife. She smiled at what she saw, and walked up to examine a bolt of green velvet.

"Look at this, Eustace! Wouldn't that be the perfect color for Gwenneth's gown?"

The man clinched his teeth and purse, but nodded.

"I'm going for lunch," Hawk said.

Emrys waved him on with a flip of the wrist as the merchant began his sales pitch. "Ah, I see you are a woman of discriminating taste."

Hawk had heard it all too many times before and tuned the merchant's sales talk out as he walked into the fresh air and past the scarlet banner proclaiming "The House of Emrys: Fine Cloth and Silks."

It was a cool spring day, damp but sunny. The grounds were trampled into a sea of mud, mixed in with all the remains of human activity the last few days, the hay that the fair organizers had laid down trying to make the paths usable, rubbish and dropped bits of who knew what. Hawk picked his way across the walk, avoiding the worst of the muck, and took a seat at a damp but mostly clean bench. Pulling his cloak closer against the damp, he sat down, ignoring the looks of the passers-by who gawked at him as they moved down the path. Merchant house guards, the fighting men who were an essential part of all trading operations, just like merchants themselves, were an unusual spectacle to the locals in this quiet town, sights to be gawked at when the spring fair rolled around, every bit as much a part of the show as the traveling jugglers and musicians.

Instead, he looked up. The sky was a brilliant blue, and for the first time since the trade fair began, there was not a hint of cloud. A bird circled overhead - an eagle maybe, or more likely a hawk. The mercenary admired how it glided, barely moving a feather.

"Are you an omen, I wonder, Brother Hawk, or are you just enjoying the fine weather and waiting for all of us to get off your field, so you can go back to hunting mice again?" he said. "Patience, friend. It won't be much longer. But I can tell you, brother, that you won't be the only one glad when we leave."

He stretched his legs out in front of him, and kicked a clump of mud off the toe of his boot. Not as patient as the hawk, people milled around the gaudy tents decorated with flags and banners that invited them to spend their money - cloth and trinkets from the south, tools and worked metals from the east, soft furs from the north, spices and medicines from everywhere. It was the last day of the trade fair, and the townsmen dressed in their best clothes, had turned out in numbers, hoping for bargains before the merchants all packed up and their town returned to normal for another year.

The merchants, having made their big deals and settled accounts with each other, sat in their booths this last day, happy to oblige the locals in their quest to spend silver and gold. The redheaded man watched the bargain hunters mill by, mildly amused as they stopped in this booth and that, fingering the goods and arguing with the vendors, pinching every coin in their pouches three times before they let one go. Women, dressed in fine linen, or silk if they had it, gave their husbands sultry eyes and sighs and pouts to loosen their purse strings. Sometimes it worked.

A small child, golden-haired and sticky-faced from some concoction the food vendors sold, nearly ran into him where he sat on his bench, but was rescued at the last minute by another armed man, younger, with curled hair and a large, feather-plumed hat.

"Whoa there, little fellow. You don't want to bump into my friend Hawk. He might eat you," the black-haired man said. He rested a gloved hand, garnished with an showy beaded gauntlet, on the boy's shoulder, steering him clear of the bench.

The child's eyes grew big as he looked at his rescuer, with an open smile and bright scarlet cloak, then took Hawk in, armored and armed and stern faced. His eyes lingered a bit on the scar on the sitting man's right cheek, the sword at his side. Hawk smiled, and the little boy's eyes grew even bigger. The young man gave the boy a pat on the backside and he took off running.

"Eat him, eh?" Hawk said as the young man joined him on the bench. "Muirnin, you are an ass. Ought to eat you for keeping me waiting."

"Sorry," Muirnin said. He grinned, a wry smile with just a touch of apology. "I didn't mean to be late. I dropped the message that Emrys sent me with at the smith's right away, but on the way back, I met this woman over by old Deasun's tent, Fina, and she was telling me – "

Hawk snorted, and raised a hand to cut off his companion. "There's always a woman. You know, ever since I rescued you from that hell-hole of a farm I found you at, there's always been a woman. Sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision. You could still be there, working the farm and taking care of my aunt."

The young man shook his head, the hint of a shadow across his face, as if the words brought back an unpleasant memory, then his grin returned. "No, no. I'm sure you did the right thing. After all, I keep you from being bored!"

"But not from being hungry," Hawk said, standing. "Let's go get lunch. I don't know how long it'll be before Emrys's good mood will last and he blows up at us." The redheaded man moved down the aisle, dodging a local man who dashed out of a leather worker's tent. The local scowled as he pushed his way past the two, not watching where he was going. "You know how cranky he gets before we have to break camp."

"Looks like he's not the only one," Muirnin said, turning to watch the unhappy shopper head away from them. "Murghad must be kicking the bargain hunters out already."

"He's not the only one. Emrys just does it with more finesse," Hawk said, tugging on his friend's sleeve.

"You'd think getting away from the mud and stale beer and horse droppings would make him happy," Muirnin said, turning back towards Hawk.

"He gets too seasick for that," Hawk said. "Almost as sick as you."

Muirnin sighed. "You had to remind me," he said, swallowing, and let the older man lead him towards lunch.

Most of the food sellers had set up shop near one side of the fairgrounds, near wood and water. It was easy to find. Hawk merely followed his nose and moved against the flow of people carrying sausages, rolls and other fair treats.

"So, today's the last day," Muirnin said. "What are you going to eat today?"

Hawk stepped over a fallen pickled apple, its shiny surface half-ground into the dirt. "Oh, I suspect another bowl of stew. Moris makes good stew."

Muirnin rolled his eyes. "Be a little adventuresome, old man. That's what you've eaten for lunch every day since we've been here. Me, I'm going to have another one of those meat pies I told you about. You ought to try one."

The path they were following opened up into a wide, open square, surrounded by a dozen or so booths, where cooks hawked their sausages and soups, candies and pasties. The area in the center sported long benches and tables, and a man in garish parti-color robes walked around them, selling cider. Besides the normal mud and hay, the grounds here were littered with sticks and crumbs and bits of broken crockery. A few brave sparrows and a pigeon or two flickered in and out of the tables, finding the risk worth the food. Two of the booths specialized in ale; they had no lack of customers. But the sweet sellers had nearly as many customers standing in their lines.

"You never know what they put in those meat pies," Hawk said. He steered them away from a minstrel playing a bad lute.

"I do," Muirnin said, pointing towards one of the booths. "I've stood there and watched every step Maire takes."

"Somehow," Hawk said, looking at the booth, "that does not surprise me." The booth in question had a line of about five people in front of it. An older woman working the counter, stopped a moment as she looked up, spotted them and waved at the young man. "She makes the best meat pies. Better than any I had back home. I'll buy. You just need to try this."

"Just be quick," Hawk said, and waved his young friend on, watching him as he headed toward Maire's booth, his hat feather bobbing and his scarlet cloak pillowing after him, and shook his head. At least this time, he got out of buying lunch.

An awful sound hit the air, causing the soldier to wince. "I didn't know a lute could make that sound," Hawk said, staring at the minstrel he had tried to avoid, a local boy with pretensions of musical ability. The young man ignored the sound he had coaxed out of his lute but continued to fill the air with an out-of-tune popular song. Two girls, equally willing to ignore the dreadful sound, stared at the young man with dream-filled eyes. Hawk decided the situation and sound was not likely to end in the near future. He needed more distance between them, so he ambled to the other side of the square, where the noise was more tolerable and found a bench that didn't look too dirty or damp.

There was a small crowd gathered here, too, where the seats were sunny and dry, and a storyteller plied her trade while children munching on sausages and rolls watched her with large eyes. A few adults were in the crowd as well, just as caught up in her magic. Her voice was pleasant and had a lilt to it that captured the attention. She was dressed in a colorful confection of red and blue festooned with tassels across her neck and down her arms. Her skin was dusky, and her hair was a brilliant black, tied back with a scarf of red silk, but her eyes were a vivid blue. Brass bands on her wrists and dangles in her ears completed the look - somehow, she reminded Hawk of a rare bird as she squatted on a stool, and the exaggerated movements of her arms made the tassels flutter and flashed the brass on her wrists.

"They tell me," she said, gesturing in broad, graceful motions with her left arm, "that in the far west near the edge of the world where the sea meets the land, a tall castle stands, unmanned by any human soldiers. It is a very special castle. In this castle, there is a magic treasure, a jewel, just waiting for the right hero to find it."

Her name, Hawk knew was Beyza. He had seen her before, she and her husband Doruk, who sold cider while to the thirsty while his wife told her tales. They following the fair circuit, and this wasn't the first time she had turned up at the same fair as Emrys, telling stories and sometimes fortunes.

Beyza held up her hand, examining something invisible held between her finger and thumb. She lifted her hand up to the sky to get a better look, then,with a flourish,flashed the imaginary jewel to the crowd. "So beautiful, this jewel. It has magic that can grant whatever the owner wishes - food, money, power. Anything at all."

Her accent pegged her from somewhere far away, Hawk thought, perhaps from the lands by the great southern sea. For the rosy cheeked and pale children listening to her every word, she was mysterious and exotic.

"But just because there are no human soldiers guarding it doesn't mean there are no guardians at all," Beyza continued. "There are three. The first guardian, who watches as sentry at the first gate is a magical cat."

But for one child, the exotic mystery was shattered. "A cat?" He had been chewing and listening with great gusto until this detail, pausing to pull his meat roll away from his mouth long enough to ask the question. He looked at her with sharp blue eyes; although his knees were muddy, his tunic was well made, in spite of the sauce spatters dripping from the lunch he was eating. No doubt he was the son of one of the local noteworthies, Hawk thought, a steady type of person that even at this young age, was of a mind that did not allow cats to be guardians of treasure.

"Yes, a cat. You don't believe me?" she asked the boy.

He shrugged, and began to eat his lunch again.

"It's not just any cat, you know," Beyza said. "It's a magical cat. Sometimes, it looks as small and gentle as any house cat lazing in the sun, but if it sees a threat to the castle, it grows huge, larger than a lion, larger than that tent over there," she said. "Larger even than the mayor's house in town. Not only is it big, it has claws sharper than steel, with great, sharp, pointed teeth suitable for eating anything, even biting through a soldier's armor. " Beyza pointed at Hawk. "Armor like his."

Eyes in the audience turned to look at Hawk. He sighed, coughed a little into his hand, and gave Beyza a questioning look. She in turn, chuckled.

"Oooo," said the boy, stopping his lunch long enough to look at Hawk, then back at the storyteller. "That's a big cat. What color is it?"

"Calico," the story teller said. "Orange, black and white, with burning orange eyes. Now as I was saying, if anybody comes to take the treasure, they have to get past the magical cat. They say there is a trick to get the cat to leave its post. I wonder what that could be?" She paused, steepling her hands beneath her chin.

Some whispers murmured through the audience.

"Mice?" a girl asked, her voice soft, hesitating.

"Rat!" the boy who questioned said, chewing the last of his meat roll.

"Good guesses." Beyza looked at her audience with a somber face, and brushed a finger across her nose. "Some heroes have tried mice and rats, but their bones lay scattered around the gate."

An older girl, freckle-faced and redheaded, looked up from the small child she was bouncing in her lap. "Catnip," she said with certainty.

The storyteller gave her a large, toothy smile. "Yes, yes, that's the one! It is said that if the hero offers the magical cat catnip at just the right moment, when it is small and curious, the cat will become so intoxicated with the treat that the hero can walk through the gate with no trouble. It must be so, because heroes have come back to tell us!

"But the hero's troubles are not over if he gets past the cat. Once he passes through that gate, he will find a little bridge made of stone, and another gate. Instead of being made of wood like the first gate, it is made of iron. Beyond the bridge the gate is guarded by a giant hound. If he sees an intruder, the hound will begin to bark and cry, and the sound of his barking is loud enough, they say, to make the walls tremble and the trees in the yard to lose their leaves. He jumps and slavers as he barks, and wherever his spittle lands, fire starts to burn on the fallen leaves. The courtyard there by the bridge is full of black cinders."

"How big is he?" asked the same boy.

"Bigger than the mayor's house here at Methilwick. Nearly as big as the church in the center of the town."

"That's big," he replied. "Really big! Bigger than my uncle Ned's dog, and that's the biggest dog I've ever seen. Is he a brown dog?"

"No," the story teller said. "He's jet black. But whether it's from laying in all that soot from his spittle, or because of the color of his hair, nobody has ever gotten close enough to tell." Beyza drew a finger up close to face. Her earrings jingled as she moved. "Ssssh. I will tell you something only the wise are supposed to know. There's a special way for dealing with the dog, too. The hero must have a large, meaty bone with him. Once the dog spots him, he must wave the bone three times in front of the dog's face, which takes much bravery, with all the growling and the burning spittle the dog makes. Then the hero must toss it away as far as he can throw it. If he does this right, the dog will bound after the bone and chew it down before he runs back to the gate. During that brief time, the hero must use that time to dash through the iron gate to enter the final courtyard."

Beyza shook her head and sighed. "But in truth, it doesn't matter if the hero knows about the catnip or the dog. In the final courtyard, guarding a gate of silver, there is no giant cat or dog or other monster that our hero must pass, but a fine apple tree, full of lovely red fruit. Beneath the apple tree, there is a seat of gold, and on that seat a beautiful woman sits. Although she looks meek and fair, barely able to swat a fly, she is a more frightful trial than either the dog or the cat."

"How beautiful is she?" a familiar voice asked. Hawk looked up to see Muirnin returning with two meat pies, one a quarter gone. "And what color is her hair?" he asked, sitting down and handing Hawk the unmarred pie.

"Too beautiful for the likes of you, knave," the story teller said, frowning at Muirnin. "They say her smile can make roses bloom, and her hair is like liquid gold in the soft morning sun."

Hawk rolled his eyes, but accepted the food. It smelled delicious. He could feel the heat from it through the leaf wrapping that half covered it. He experimentally took a bite. The crust was flaky and the filling savory and tender, the meat spiced with pepper and blended with onions and some crispy vegetable he didn't recognize but liked.

"Worth waiting for?" Muirnin asked.

Hawk nodded. He took another bite.

"Yes, she's too beautiful and fair for the likes of any typical knight at arms, or even most heroes," Beyza continued. "Her loveliness makes her more terrible than the magical cat or the hound to those who come looking for the treasure. They expect to fight a dragon, but instead, they find her. She smiles at them, speaks softly, disarming them with a glance, and they forget their quest in the loveliness of her eyes and the sweetness of her smile. The grounds around her are scattered with the bodies of young heroes who came looking to find the treasure, but instead, accepted an apple from the young woman's hand. Biting into it, they lose everything but the look of her smile, and unable to move or look away, they slowly turn into stone. They stay there, frozen at her feet, until the gardener comes by and finds a place in the courtyard for them. I have been told that there are quite a lot of statues there. The pigeons particularly find them pleasant places to rest."

"You definitely don't want to go there, Muirnin," Hawk said."You might be able to figure a way around the cat and the dog, but you'd be a lost soul at the sight of the woman."

Muirnin shuddered at the thought. "I think you're right. Keep me away from there, please?"

Hawk laughed, and finished his meat pie.

"How do we know what's beyond the iron gate if everybody who went there got trapped by the beauty beneath the apple tree?" Beyza asked.

The audience waited for her answer. Some shrugged.

"I'll tell you, then," she said. "Once there was a handsome young knight who had lost everything to the wicked man who was his uncle. His uncle had slain his father, sent his mother away to a convent, and bound on him the obligation not to return until he had secured the treasure at the world's end. He headed out, sorrowful at heart, with nothing but his sword, his horse, and the hawk on his wrist, when suddenly - "

As if on cue, a young woman came running into the eating area. "Help me! He's going to beat me!" she screamed. "I didn't do anything!"

All heads turned. She was not one of the local women. Hawk had seen her before during the fair. Young and slim, dressed in a simple grey gown that servant women wore, her golden hair streamed behind her as she ran across the square. She glanced around, then dashed through the middle of the storyteller's crowd. Beyza neatly saved her collection basket from being stomped before she moved out of the way, but the boy who had asked all the questions lost his final piece of lunch, a skewered piece of candied fruit, as running woman pushed past him and he fell into the dirt. Ignoring the yells of the people she ran past and heedless of the babies who cried as their caretakers scrambled out of the way, the woman headed straight towards Hawk and Muirnin.

"There goes my lunch break," Hawk said. Muirnin ignored him and stood up.

"Master Muirnin! Help! He's after me!" she said, running into his arms.

Hawk did admit she was a pretty little thing, about a head shorter than his younger companion, with bright blue eyes now wet with tears and fear. Her bottom lip trembled and her ample bosom heaved as Muirnin wrapped his arms around her and she worked to catch her breath and find her voice. A few of the women from the storyteller's crowd moved closer.

"Who, Fina? Who wants to hurt you?" Muirnin said gently, running his hands over her long hair and down her back.

"That's Deasun's wench?" Hawk asked, standing as well. He scanned the square. Outside of the people drawn to her outburst, there was nobody in hot pursuit. Nonetheless, he pushed the bench they had been sitting on out of the way, just in case.

Muirnin nodded. "Who's looking for you?" he repeated.

Fina pointed up. Both the fighters, and a number of the people in the storyteller's crowd looked up in the sky, to see a hawk circling overhead. It gave a sudden screech, high pitched, loud, and piercing, and then dived into an open area near where they stood.

With a final cry, much too loud for a bird that size, it landed. There was a bright flash of light, too bright to watch even the midday sun. Hawk turned his head and shielded his eyes, just like everybody else who had come too close did. When he opened them again, he found the bird of prey in front of him was now a man. The man the light revealed was big, over six feet tall, and broad of shoulder and of stomach. His red hair flowed out from underneath a steel cap, and he had a wild beard to match. Chain covered his chest, and a leather belt held both axe and sword. Reaching across his chest, he unsheathed the blade.

"I'll tell you who's looking for her," the hawk-now-man said. "I am. She's mine, the cheating slut."

"Damn, a shapeshifter," Hawk muttered. "That's why a hawk was circling the tents today. So much for my good luck." He started searching in his belt bag for a pouch he kept there.

The women who had come to help slowly backed up to the edge of the square. The freckle-faced girl with the baby screamed and ran towards the exit. Shutters on the food vendors' booths began to slam shut. The children scattered.

The storyteller, holding her stool like she was going to hit the man, pulled on his sleeve. "Curse you, Rolf," Beyza yelled. "You owe me, you jealous oaf. You chased all my business away before I passed the basket. I ought to - "

"Uh, sorry." His bluster, suddenly apologetic, Rolf pulled out a small purse out of his belt, tossed it her way. "See if this will help."

With a jingle of brass, she snatched it out of the air, opened it, and sighed. "Well, it's better than nothing," she said. "I'll leave all of you to your fun." Propping her stool on her shoulder, she walked off to the other end of the square to join her husband.

The shapeshifter watched her walk away and sighed, then turned back to the three standing there. His eyes narrowed.

"You think Rolf is stupid, woman," the shapeshifter said. "Rolf do this, Rolf get me that." His face reddened as his anger returned. "But when Rolf's doing his job, you go do what you want with all the handsome young men. You think when I'm out of sight, I know nothing. But I see everything. You think you can hide your cheating? I was in the air and saw everything you did with that little pretty boy you're wrapped around. You can't lie your way out of this one." He started walking towards the three. "I caught you red-handed."

Emboldened by the two men beside her, Fina turned to the shapeshifter. "You may work for Deasun, too, Rolf, but I don't belong to you!" she said. "So what if I slept with you? I never promised you anything."

The man's big hand dropped his sword and tightened into a fist. "You bitch. Who's always been there when your pretty boys dump you for the whore you are?" He took a step forward, and reached out for her. "None of'em has ever taken care of you like me!"

Knowing he was going to regret this, but steeling himself to do it anyway, Hawk took a deep breath then stepped in front of Muirnin and Fina. "You heard the woman," he said. His left fingers closed around the pouch, and slipped off the cords binding it closed. "You should go."

"It's none of your business. Get back to your cloth merchant. The woman is mine," Rolf said.

"He's not my husband! He's just mad because I didn't let him in my bed last night. I didn't do anything wrong!" she said, stepping to the side so she could face the enraged shapeshifter.

"Running after that brat in armor is nothing?" the man yelled. "I saw you rubbing up against him. What were you thinking this time? Who's gonna pick up the pieces when you spend the night crying because he dropped you flat?"

"At least he knows how to talk to me!" she said, pulling fully away from Muirnin. Both of her hands were in fists. "He doesn't treat me like I'm a piece of furniture, or one of Deasun's rugs!"

Muirnin stepped forward, trying to push Fina behind him. "Sir, I can explain."

"Shut up, pretty boy. You think this is the first time she's done this?" Rolf roared. "She thinks she's gonna find someone to set her up like a princess. That is, until they find out what an untrue bitch she is."

Hawk rolled his eyes, but he thumbed open the pouch in his left hand, then gave the young man a hand signal that meant fall back. This wasn't going to end pretty. . "Sir, she says she is not your woman."

The man shoved Hawk. "What business is it of yours if she is or isn't?" he asked. "And why are you protecting that woman stealer?"

As word of the strife spread through the fairgrounds, a new crowd had begun to filter into the square, curious men and women. Hawk heard someone placing a bet. It wasn't on him, and for some reason, that irritated him. He would have to act quickly, before the fair marshals got brave enough to try to interfere.

"That woman stealer is my kinsman." Hawk stepped towards the shapeshifter. He glanced at Muirnin, who nodded and began moving Fina to the edge of the square. "And the woman says she's not yours. Why don't you just go back to Deasun's tent and get back to whatever it is he pays you to do for him?"

Rolf shoved Hawk once more. "Who's going to make me?"

"You have to do this the hard way, don't you?" Hawk asked. Rolf growled in return. In a fluid movement, he threw the contents of the pouch at the redheaded shapeshifter and drew his sword. The effects were almost instantaneous. The shapeshifter doubled up in great pain.

"Get her out of here, Muirnin! The wolfsbane won't last forever." With a thrust of his boot, he kicked the big man, and the shapeshifter collapsed into a fetal ball. It didn't take Hawk long to use the man's own belt to tie his arms to his chest. The crowd on the edge of the square broke out in noise, a few cheers and some boos. He stood up, nodded to the fair marshals, who moved in to carry the big man off. One unhappy looking man, the man who bet against him, handed a purse to his neighbor.

"You really shouldn't bet against me," Hawk said.

The excitement over, the spectators went their way, and some of the vendors unshuttered their stands.

"Seems kind of unsporting, using wolfsbane that way," the storyteller said as she moved her stool and basket back into position. "Even if he is a fool." Carrying a great leather jug of cider on his back, the storyteller's husband joined her.

"Better than a bloody mess," Hawk said. "And nobody got really hurt. He'll be fine in an hour or so, sooner if they wash him down."

He bent over to brush the mud off his legs where he had knelt.

"I'd watch your backside if I were you," the cider seller said, pouring a cup of his own brew into a mug.

"I can take care of Rolf," Hawk said, tightening his shoe strap. "I'm not worried."

"I mean now," the cider seller said, smiling in an odd, disturbing sort of way. He swallowed a large gulp out of his mug. "Behind you."

"What?" Hawk said. He began to straighten up.

"No, Fina!" Muirnin yelled.

Feet scuffled, and he started to swerve. Before he made it up, he had a glimpse of gray cloth and a shrill but familiar woman's voice yelled at him, "What did you do to Rolf, you monster!"

Suddenly pain exploded in his head. The world around him went black.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Duet: Ghost Along the Shore

I hear the seagulls crying
I hear the seagulls crying
I hear the seagulls crying
as I walk along the shore.

Salt in the air tonight my love,
like tears uncried tonight my love,
like lovers' lies tonight my love -
forget me not in the morning.

The cold wind wraps around me
the cold wind wraps around me
the cold wind wraps around me
as it whispers "never more."

The waves roll in tonight my love,
and wash the strand tonight my love,
to hide your hand tonight my love -
forget me not in the morning.

I remember how she sang here
I remember how she sang here
I remember how she sang here
As she walked along the shore.

The sand is wet tonight my love,
from rain and wave tonight my love,
from my heart's blood tonight my love -
forget me not in the morning.

She whispers at the ebb tide
she whispers at the ebb tide
she whispers at the ebb tide
But she'll sing for me no more.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Moonlit Homecoming

Light from the full moon
poured through their window,
and danced across her skin
as she lay there,
becoming reacquainted
with the texture of her bed.

Not alone, no.

The feel of his breath
warm against her moon-kissed skin
as his cheek caressed
the softness her neck
gave her goose bumps as he moved,
electric shivers.

She had missed it,
the way his arm wrapped around her
pulling her closely
in a safe circle, skin to skin,
his hard chest to her smooth back.

His fingers made lazy patterns
gleaming in the soft light
moving across her white thigh
before disappearing into shadow.

Closing her eyes when
his warm lips tasted her skin
she breathed deep
and knew, as she surrendered,
it was good to be home.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Call of the Waters

I lay here on my bed,
heavy with gravity
and the dregs of winter,
and dream of floating on warm water
green and diamond sparkled in the afternoon,
and the cry of seagulls
and the smell of salt.

The years have passed,
but I remember how it called to me
and how it felt to wade in it,
and what it was like,
to just sit on the shore,
watching the pelicans at sunrise.

Sitting up,
I look out the window at mountains
and consider how it feels to be up in the heights,
surrounded by the silence and wind,
sunlight in the meadows,
the murmur of the trees –
a good place,
yet I know
that mountains do not have all the answers,
and at last,
even they will wash down
into the green depths
of Mother Ocean.

It is powerful,
the call of the waters –
if even the mountains cannot resist,
how can I?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Riverside Invitation

I toss a pebble into water,
and watch the ripples
beneath a lead gray sky
and lift my head up,
filled with a nameless yearning.

O wind
filled the the touch of change,
why do you bring me here,
stir my longing
and leave me
watching the leaves swirl
and the geese fly,
calling me to follow,
but I am too heavy,
too earthbound to follow.

Ah, the fae ways
of weather and wind,
whispering of things beyond my understanding,
eldritch and powerful,
just outside of my grasp -
old magic, that,
bound to rock and wind and water
and that place where the land meets the sky,
how it washes over me,
asking me to follow.
I sigh,
frustrated at my heaviness,
and watch the ducks set their wings,
landing in the river,
and wish for the sun.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Away, Away

I remember his smile,
but it's fading away,
his eyes were blue
(or were they gray?)
as he kissed me once more,
nothing left to say
as he went on his way in the morning.

Away, away, my love has gone,
away he walked in the morning sun,
away he walked while the wind blew free,
but what will I do if he comes back to me?

I remember his laugh,
or I think I do,
he could make me laugh
with a word or two,
but what those words were,
I wish I knew,
as he went on his way in the morning.

Away, away, my love has gone,
away he walked in the morning sun,
away he walked while the wind blew free,
but what will I do if he comes back to me?

His hair was sandy -
my mother claims brown -
if he said my name wrong,
it would make me frown;
other girls wept
in my little home town
as he went on his way in the morning.

Away, away, my love has gone,
away he walked in the morning sun,
away he walked while the wind blew free,
but what will I do if he comes back to me?

I wept for a week,
then I sighed for another,
then one day at noon
I ran into his mother,
who invited me over
to meet his brother
who would always be home in the morning.

Away, away, my love has gone,
away he walked in the morning sun,
away he walked while the wind blew free,
but what will I do if he comes back to me?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Tale of Fire and Frost

Once upon a time there were two brothers, wizards both, one named Fire and the other Frost. Lord Fire was hot tempered and flew across the land in the summer months on a fabulous bird of red and gold wings. Lord Frost was thoughtful but also could have a sharp temper, but he blew across the land on wings like a great seabird when the season was cold.

The brothers had little to do with each other most of the time. Fire and Frost do not mix well. But once, they both fell in love with the same woman, the Lady Autumn. She lived in a solitary castle by the sea, a place surrounded by groves of willow and by a garden of roses. At times, she would leave her garden, and walk along the seashore. When she did, first one brother, and then the next would take turns courting her.

She grew fond of both brothers. Lord Fire, with his with his hair like flame and his eyes like dark coals, his passion and quick temper sometimes made her laugh, but sometimes, he made her feel like he wanted to burn her up and devour her in his eagerness to make her his. This frightened her. Lord Frost, though, approached her gently, like the way the trees are dusted with a fine white frost that makes them beautiful just from the touch of winter. Lady Autumn found him fair to look at, with his hair of ice blue and his eyes gray as the sea. Somehow, even though he was a cold man to most, he made her feel safe and cherished and bit by bit, he won her heart. One day, when the moon was full, she told Frost of her love. He wrapped her in a mantle of white fur and snowflakes in his joy, and not long afterward, they became husband and wife.

But Lord Fire, hearing the news, burned with jealousy that his brother had won the beautiful Lady Autumn. He raged across the southlands, setting trees on fire with his heat and his lightning. Mountains smoldered in his anger.

As he stood there watching the world around him burn, a shadow fell across the moon - it was the dark witch people call Lady Strife, flying across the midnight with her children Pain and Woe and Grief. Nothing pleases her more when she sees misery and unhappiness in someone's heart than to make it worse. She loves to turn small griefs into great tragedies, and when she saw the flame in his heart, she knew she would have an easy time using him to bring even more misery to the world.

She landed next to him. "Grieve not, my son," she whispered. "I can give you your heart's delight." And she held up a small crystal globe. It glowed with an unnatural light and as he watched it, all he wanted to do was touch it. He started to reach up to take it from her, but she quickly wrapped it in a black cloth.

"Do not touch this with your own hand, my son," said the witch, "But let your lady love pick it up herself. Once she sees it, her soul will be trapped by it, and you will be able to do with it whatever you wish." She began to laugh, as she saw the delight grow in his heart as he planned how he would use it. Then like the wind, she was gone.

A few days later, Lord Frost received a message from his sister. An ogre from the mountains was attacking her in her own keep, and only he could stop it. With a heavy heart, he kissed his wife goodbye and told her to stay within her garden until he returned.

Little did he know that the message hadn't come from his sister, but it had been written by his brother. Lord Fire lurked around Lady Autumn's keep, hoping she would step out and give him a chance to use the globe Lady Strife had given her. But for six days, Lady Autumn kept to her own keep, and stayed within her own garden.

On the seventh day, though, the sun was bright and the wind blew from the sea, and Lady Autumn grew lonely for the sound of the water and so, not thinking of her husband's advice, she walked down to the beach where she had been courted by the two brothers. Lord Fire, hiding behind some rocks, rolled the cursed jewel to where Lady Autumn was sure to see it. It happened just as he planned, for as she neared it, its shining light caught her eye and, without thinking, she bent down and picked it up.

When she held it in her hand, she became transfixed by its shimmering light. She did not see Lord Fire approach her. She did not react as he closed her fingers over the jewel, nor wrap his arms around her. She was a prisoner of Lady Strife's magic.

With a shout of victory, he grabbed her and flew off with her on the back of his bird of fire, towards the mountains he made his home, where he laid her in his bed of shining coal. She was like a doll; he could do whatever he wanted to do with her. And he did.

Lord Frost arrived at his sister's keep to find out that it was not her who sent for him, and realized he had been tricked. He and his sister the Lady Gannet, who was just as magical as her two brothers, returned to Autumn's home by the sea, but found it empty. He searched high and low for her but the only traces he could find were the cinders where his brother had walked. Calling upon his sister who could fly on snowy white wings from the northlands to the southlands and could see all things the wind sees, he begged her to help him find out what had happened to his beloved.

For three days she flew across the north and south, east and west, questioning all the travelers on the wind to see if they could tell her anything of the Lady Autumn. In the north, she found a sea bird who told her of how Lady Autumn had walked along the seashore. In the east, she found a sparrow who told her of how Lady Autumn had picked up a jewel laying on the sand. In the West, she found a swan who told her of how Lord Fire had lifted up the Lady Autumn and flew off with him on his bird of red and gold wings.

Hearing this, the Lady Gannet flew back to her brother with all the news. Lord Frost's fury was frightening to see - wherever he strode, ice froze in his footsteps. Rocks cracked from the power of his breath. Animals who walked in front of him shivered, and if they did not move quickly, fell down, frozen. A gale of snow and sleet swirled around him. Unsheathing his mighty sword that glittered like ice in the morning light, he flew to the home of his brother.

Lord Fire's home was in a mountain that burned, sending up a column of smoke and belching red streams of molten rock. But this did not stop Lord Frost. He used frozen wind to calm the fires and ice to crack through the walls of his brother's home. A mighty battle followed, bolts of ice and tongues of flame flew out as the two brothers wrestled with each other, but at last, Lord Frost covered his brother with a ball of ice and broke through to the room where Lady Autumn lay unmoving on his brother's bed of coals, still holding the cursed jewel.

He knocked the jewel out of her hand, and the spell was broken. Lady Autumn, realizing where she was, screamed and ran into her husband's arms. Before he could pick her up and leave, Lord Fire burst the bonds his brother had put on him and ran in to stop them. Seeing the jewel on the ground, he cried out and picked up the jewel with his bare hands, forgetting Lady Strife's warning not to touch it with his bare hand.

They say the sound of his screaming as he realized what he had done was indescribable. The jewel did not turn him into a puppet, like it did with Lady Autumn. Instead, it began to feed hungrily on Lord Fire's magic, draining every bit of fire magic from him. As it pulled in the wizard's power, it began to glow with a fire of its own, consuming the body of the wizard and filling the room with an incredible heat.

Alas, it was too much for poor Lady Autumn, even sheltered by the cooling power of Lord Frost. She died in the arms of her lover, consumed by the heat of Lord Fire and his desire, like she feared when he was courting her. Lord Frost, gravely burned and wounded by the treachery of his brother, carried her body and laid it to rest near the sea that she loved, crying great tears that fell to earth like diamond snowflakes.

While he wept, a rose fell down on the shimmering snowflakes. He looked up and saw the shining outline of his love standing in front of him.

"Do not cry, beloved," she told him. "When the time is right, I will return to you. Keep this rose as my promise." And with that, she was gone.

Sick at heart, and damaged in body, Lord Frost took the rose and returned to his own home in the far north, beyond the steps of mortal man. He placed the blossom on the ground, and to his wonder, a tree grew out of it, tall with white leaves, like ice, yet filled with tiny pink buds, like rosebuds, waiting to bloom.

As he watched the tree grow, a sleep stole over him and he sank into the bosom of the earth his mother, to heal and to wait. One day he knows that the white tree will burst into bloom and Lady Autumn will return to him again, but until that time, he sleeps in an enchanted sleep, dreaming of what once was.

It is said that his sister Gannet in the form of a great white bird rides the winds and comes and visits him from time to time, singing soft lullabies.

As for what happened to the magic gem, it is said that Lady Strife, well-pleased with the havoc it wrought, but unable to touch it for the fire it contained, used a spell to send it into the waters of a bottomless lake. On moonless nights, it is said you can see it glowing in the depths of the water, and if you listen carefully, you can hear the ghost of Lord Fire weeping for what he can never have.

Warm Fire

I do not remember everything about that day
the day I tasted you for the first time,
felt the warmth of your tongue
dancing with mine,
the touch of your lips,
the heady sensation of my heart beating hard
as your hands explored
and my hands fumbled,
each kiss tumbling us closer
into that white hot heat
neither one of us wanted to step back from.

I remember your hat
and your vest,
and the shyness in your smile,
and how your hands felt on my breasts,
and the feel of my thighs wrapping around you,
and the bliss in your eyes -
yes, that look I remember best.

It's still there,
warm and friendly after all this time,
even after so many nights together -
I warm myself at its fire
and know that I am loved.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Watching the Water

How high the water flows -
how swift the current,
I watch a duck float by
riding the torrent.
Spring melt is here
the mountains shed their snow
I stand beside the stream
and watch the water flow.

How blue the sky looks now
above the trees.
I watch a robin fly
and feel the breeze.
Beyond the riverbank
the people come and go.
I stand beside the stream
and watch the water flow.

Bound to the shade am I,
not to warm sunlight.
I watch the waterbirds
drift slowly out of sight.
My eyes may see the spring,
my spirit walks in snow.
I stand beside the stream
and watch the water flow.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Beneath the Stars

I stand beneath the stars,
spinning, spinning
as I watch them
dance around Polaris,
then watch the moon rise,
shyly at first
as she peeks over the mountains,
then dashes up into the sky.

How I personified her once,
the moon,
Artemis of the bow
drenched in pale white light
her hounds yapping at her feet,
and wondered how the Norse
ever saw her as a man,
even as I dreamed of space flight
and watched the rockets blast off
to circle round her,
pick up her rocks
and carry onward
our dreams of the future.

Ah, such dreams -
I thought by now
I would be walking beneath that cold white surface,
in a city built by our hopes
and dreams of the future
waving farewell to children
ready to colonize Mars
and their own dreams
as my tomorrows moved into today
and theirs were just beginning.

Funny how dreams
and reality
don't necessarily meet up,
but still I watch her
and the stars
spin round and round
and the dreams spin round and round
as I think of how tomorrow
becomes today,
and today becomes history,
and hope ever dawns on the horizon.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thinking of Athena

that wise goddess,
seeing the way the world was shifting
back in the age of bronze,
and watching the fate of other goddesses
during that dark era
where goddesses became weak and bullied,
put aside her bare breasts
and bell skirts,
snakes twining up her arms,
and kissing her last lover farewell,
left the wild ways
of her neolithic youth behind her,
letting herself be reborn
from Zeus' forehead,
armed with spear and shield,
dressing always as a girl,
her daddy's darling,
potent in perpetual adolescence.

Times, though, change.

She, like all the other old gods
are still with us.
Stripped of their temples,
they walk among us,
warming themselves
at the altars of our day-to-day lives,
personifications of just what we do
to get by.

I think I glimpse her,
a gray-eyed woman in her power suit,
walking into boardrooms
making deals,
other times, I see her on campus,
dressed in comfortable crisp linen blouses
and swirling natural fiber skirts
or sensible trousers.
She often attends women's workshops,
where she teaches all the interesting things
using her shuttle and spear,
like how to win in politics,
how to knit and make beautiful things,
how to shoot.

Now that the Thunderer
is not quite the power broker he once was
and she no longer needs him as cover,
I wonder if she will bare her breasts again,
let the snakes twine back up her arms,
and find a lover to kiss once more,
put away her girlish dress,
and become, once again,
fully woman.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Beyond the Twilit Sea

West of the Sun, and east of the Moon,
the piper plays a lonely tune
to sea birds playing in the gloom
as they dance above the sea
in a land of deep twilight,
never day, and never night,
waiting til the time is right
beyond the twilit sea.

The turning year goes round and round,
The seasons circle to the sound
of their own music, he has found
as he watches by the sea.
Snowflakes fall, then the rain,
o'er rock and sea and empty plain.
He's seen them come, then go again
beyond the twilit sea.

Where he lives, a silver tree
sheds its leaves, one, two, and three,
three years passing endlessly
as he waits beside the sea.
He thinks of day, he thinks of night
and wanders through the deep twilight -
will the time be ever right
beyond the twilit sea?

West of the Sun, and east of the Moon,
the piper plays a lonely tune
to sea birds playing in the gloom
as they dance above the sea
in a land of deep twilight,
never day, and never night.
Hope grows thin for a sign of light
beyond the twilit sea.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Behind the Waterfall, Chapter 1:

New Story:  Behind the Waterfall - Imagine there is a gateway between worlds holding a terrible treasure, which in the wrong hands will wreak havoc in the land where humans live. A young woman suddenly finds that she is the only human standing between that treasure and the ruthless magician who wants to make it his own. Her only weapons to stave off this twilight for mankind are the word of a strange old woman who knows the truth of an ancient legend, the reluctant help of a young man half Sidhe, half human, and the determination to avenge her family and uphold ancient vows. What magic lies behind the waterfall? And can she stop it in time?

Chapter 1:  A Visit to My Father's Garden

“Once upon a time, back when I was a young boy, something unusual happened,” my father began as he opened the gate to his private garden.

It was a warm June day. We were far away from the peasants working in the field or the sound of life in the village below the great hall that was our home. Here, behind the garden wall and the tall poplars that surrounded it, it was even hard to see the top of the stone tower in the center of the castle. Papa called it his hideaway, where he could pretend away the cares of his position. No one but my father, the gardener who assisted him and those he invited as guests came into this particular refuge, not even my mother. It was his special retreat. Even his advisors had to wait at the garden gate if he were in here and something came up that needed his attention. They would ring a bell at the gate and wait for him to answer. I felt very special to have been asked to come in with him this day - the morning of my eighteenth birthday.

He paused in his story for a moment as I walked through the gate and onto a graveled path. The garden was filled with roses, red and pink and white, in raised beds between a network of paths, and in places there were stands of pinks and lavender. Papa stopped by a small shed, hung up his elegant silk coat and slipped on a course linen farmer’s smock, broad-brimmed hat and vest, then grabbed a basket, which he handed me. Silently, he led me into the garden.

We stopped by a rosebush filled with bright red flowers. It smelled very sweet. The bees thought so too, as they hopped from blossom to blossom. One of them decided to buzz Papa’s head. He ignored it, but as he studied the rosebush, he put his hand to the top of his head, rubbing the crown of his hat, as if it felt uncomfortable. I remember how the brim bobbed, casting a shadow across his face as he adjusted it.

Finally, he broke the silence. “I must have been about ten,” he said. “A woman in our village gave birth to a fine young baby. She and her husband were very happy at first, but something seemed wrong.” He took some snips out of his gardening vest, and carefully walking around the bush, clipped the stem of a rose that had bloomed out.

“The baby had black hair.” My father put the spent rose in the basket I carried. “Nobody in his family had dark hair. His father was redheaded and his mother’s hair was blond. Rumors began to spread.”

He moved over to the side of the rosebush and looked at it carefully, and clipped another spent rose. “Her husband was furious with the talk, and began to look at his wife with different eyes, wondering about her virtue. The families with dark-haired men began to avoid him, which made the work on the estate suffer as well.”

Frowning at one section of the rosebush, he eased forward a branch, examined it carefully, and then clipped away at what displeased him. He handed the pruned bit of cane to me, and I tucked it with the others in the basket. He moved around the bush and I followed carefully, making sure not to snag my dress on the thorns.

“So what happened next, Papa?” I asked.

Papa bent a rose branch out some. “Hold this, Ellyn” he said. Being careful of the thorns, I gingerly applied pressure to keep it in place while he reached in past it and snipped a stem in the center of the bush. The branch he snipped and handed me had been attacked by something, and the cane was spotted and black in places. I put it in the basket.

“After a particularly loud argument, my father convinced the unhappy couple to take their child and go see the priest at Egilthorpe. Father Paidrag was his name, I believe, very wise about uncanny things. Not as good as the current priest, who doesn’t seem to know much about the fae folk, or anything else much outside of his prayers,” he said, snipping the first of the roses we would bring home, one just beginning to open. “Father Paidrag, after talking to both of them, and praying much with incense and holy water and blessed salt, declared that the infant had fae blood.”

He snipped two more roses. “I’m not sure of how they managed it, but the child’s parents decided that after Father Padraig’s diagnosis, the son they were caring for was a changeling, and that their true son had been stolen from them. Even though the father considered deserting the strange boy and handing him to the church to deal with, the woman was attached to the baby already, and she and the good priest convinced her husband that changeling or no, this was the child the good Lord had given them to raise, and her wishes prevailed. To her dying day, the boy’s mother denied ever being unfaithful to her husband, and slowly the rumors went away.”

I looked at my father as he continued to study the rose bush. He took a deep breath, let it go and moved on towards the next.

“But you didn’t believe the changeling story,” I said, following in his wake.

Papa looked at me, a bit surprised, I think. that I had picked up on his opinion. “No. I watched the boy grow up. He was a very bright child, good at figuring out things. That’s not how changelings are. True changelings are weak, and slow of tongue and mind, like something’s missing in their minds. None of that was true for this boy.”

We stopped by the next rosebush, and my father began examining it as well. “He had a special talent for understanding things growing wild, herbs, trees, birds, even fish. His parents tolerated him. They were good people, and went on to have a string of red and blond-headed children, all quite like themselves, made to farm the land and not wonder about how the henbit bloomed in the spring or how to know the difference between wild garlic and its poisonous cousins.”

Papa snipped a rose, and handed it to me. He looked at me oddly, with a sadness lingering in his eyes that I did not understand. I was beginning to wonder if I were the object of this story. “Unable to understand why he was different, they let him go his own way.”

My father circled the bush, deftly removing blown blossoms and branches that would interfere with the way he wanted the rose to grow. “Maybe it was because they knew what your grandfather would do if he heard of it, but they never tied him up or did any of the other cruel things people do to get the fae folk to give them back their own child. They fed him and made sure he had enough to wear, but otherwise, ignored him as much as they could. He often made his way into the woods. For a while, he trailed my mother as she went gathering herbs.”

“You’re talking about Ghillie Dhu,” I said. I knew the quiet, black-haired man who occasionally came up to our hall, or wandered through the village.

“Ghillie Dhu, the black-haired boy. That’s not really his name, you know,” my father said, looking at me. “His parents named him Cullin.”

“Cullin,” I said, rolling the name over in my mind, trying to match the sound with my mental picture of the slim, blue-eyed man that I had seen when he came into the village to trade his herbs and mushrooms. He had a secret, otherwordly feel about him, as if he didn’t quite belong to the world of the village or the farm. Children adored him, and he them, but he made the grownups uneasy for some reason I could not yet understand, barely being more than a child myself. It was a shock to me to find out how old he was - he didn’t seem old enough to have been born when my father was a boy. I would have guessed him to be no older than twenty-five.

Papa snipped another rose. “I remember watching him following your grandmother, small and too serious for his years. He would squat next to her, listening as she explained what this herb was for or that.” He looked over the rosebush again, tilting his head as he studied it. “For some reason, my mother was rather fond of him, even as wild and unkempt as he was, but Mother was like that. There was a time . . . ” His voice drifted off as he put his snips back in his vest. “Yes, that does it for this one,” he said, then started walking towards a bench placed against the garden wall.

He sat down, and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs, and interlacing his fingertips. I sat down next to him, resting the basket in my lap. I remember still the scent of the roses he had cut. They smelled very fragrant.

“There was a time what, Papa?” I asked.

“For a few years, before I went off to Kilcarthin to finish my education and got caught up in the wars, he turned into my shadow every time I went into the woods. I think he was about ten. He would follow me when I went hunting. You wouldn’t think a child so young could stay still enough not to frighten the animals, but he could. He had an uncanny way of calling in the deer. Even the birds would come close when he wanted them to. I think it unnerved my brother. Your uncle stopped hunting with me for a while because of him.”

I picked up one of the roses, and twirled it in my fingers.“Why are you telling me this, Papa?”

He removed his hat and ran a finger over the straw of the brim, not looking me in the eyes. For once, he lost that look of composure and command I had always associated with him, my father, Thane of Redewick, commander of men and advisor to the duke at his castle in Arbercrey. As he sat there and struggled for the words he was trying to say he seemed smaller, diminished, and for the first time in my life I noticed he was aging. Gray streaked his dark hair and there were creases around his eyes.

“Things aren't always what they seem to be, daughter. Sometimes, the changeling boy that nobody wants is a person who holds some wild power that is beyond normal. Sometimes, the friends and allies we thought we had turn out to be our worst enemies.” He sighed. “Just take it for what it is. Sometimes, just the knowledge can tip the balance.”

He stood up and pulled off his gardening gloves. “Someone has asked me for permission to marry you.”

I gasped, I think, feeling a shock run through me. I had known this day would come, but the fact that it was here still came as a surprise. Papa watched me. I suspect I blushed, and my pulise quickened. and that amused him. Still, that didn’t totally remove the darkness touching him.

Something clicked in my thoughts. “You do not approve of the person who asked? Who was it?”

“You are correct. I do not,” he said. “Baron Drystan of Brothingthwaite has asked to match you with his son Roderick. Drystan and I...well let’s just say we seldom agree on things. And there’s more here than that. I’ve been pressured from an unexpected quarter to agree. But I promised long ago not to force you into a political match. For the moment, I’ve been able to use that to buy us time. And I’m not sure I want to be tied to Drystan that way.” He stood up. “Beyond that, we have obligations here at Redewick, obligations that Drystan would never acknowledge.”

I swallowed, trying to calm the red in my face and the beating of my heart. “What would you like me to do, Papa?”

I vaguely remembered having seen Baron Drystan, a stern, cold man who was the opposite of my father in many ways. I remembered his son Roderick more clearly and with more distaste. My heart sank at the thought of becoming a part of that household.

“Don’t worry, daughter,” he said, kissing me lightly on the forehead. “Your happiness matters to me, no matter what the politics. Take these flowers to your mother,” he said. “She will know what to do with them. Tell her I will be in my garden for a while longer. I need to think.”

He helped me stand. After kissing him on his cheek in farewell, I went back to the house.

Of Questions and Keywords

Some days I wonder long snarky thoughts
about people and places and what hath God wroughts,
of tombstones and rabbits and deep Prussian blue,
but Google's my friend and Wikipedia, too.

I learn about carbon, I learn about steel,
I learn how to dye and to spin with a wheel,
I learn about Chaucer and what the Wife of Bath knew,
since Google's my friend and Wikipedia, too.

When a question arises and the itch, it is risen
to learn about selkies or what is a frizzen,
I hop on my keyboard and type keywords anew,
since Google's my friend, and Wikipedia, too.

String theory, linguistics, and how to cook rice
all answered quite clearly, and done very nice.
The answers are tasty, like chocolate fondue,
since Google's my friend and Wikipedia, too.

So why do some people ask the most basic things?
Won't lift up a finger all covered with rings
to stroke their own keyboards to find answers so true
since Google's their friend, and Wikipedia, too.

I don't have the answers in some crystal ball,
but people ask questions like I should know it all.
I'll look up the key words or find them a clue,
since Google's my friend, and Wikipedia too.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Victory Party

Flush from the battle, and wine, and the cheers of his soldiers at the victory party, Arthur, the young king of the Britons, strode through the camp and back to his tent. Opening the flap, he was surprised not to see his page Tadhg, but her.

She waited for him on his bed, green eyes hot and sultry, red hair cascading down to drape creamy white shoulders, half cloaking firm white breasts with their rosebud nipples, but her legs were covered by the coverlet of fine scarlet wool pulled over his bed.

"You came," he said, dropping his cloak onto a chair. He swayed slightly in his intoxication.

"I promised to help you celebrate," she replied, smiling. "Did you think I wouldn't?"

He unfastened his belt, and lay his sword on the table. "I didn't know, my mysterious lady. Where's my page?"

She stood up, letting the red cloth fall away from her. "I sent him away. I thought you'd prefer some privacy for this."

His mouth went dry as she walked lithely towards him. He collapsed into his chair, sitting on his cloak, and kicked his boots off. "So when will you tell me your name?" he asked.

She bent over him slightly. "After you give me what you promised me," she said, letting her arms wrap around his neck. He stood up, and she pressed her body invitingly against his. Her lips kissed the base of his throat, and then she dragged her tongue up from there to the tip of his chin. "As for me, I always deliver what I promise, my liege."

It was enough. His mouth crushed hers as his hands wrapped into her flame-colored hair. With a moan, he carried her to the bed, and lost himself in her taste, her breasts, and the warm inviting wetness he found as she wrapped her legs around him.

In the morning, he awoke alone. Tucked in his hand was a slip of paper. Sitting up he unfurled it. "My name is Morgause," he read. "Daughter of Ygraine and Gorlois of Cornwall. Thank you for a pleasant evening, brother. As I told you, I always deliver."

Suddenly he grew cold, and his victory seemed very far away.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Briar, Briar

Briar, briar, twisted tight,
remember well that fateful night.
Spell of death turned into hope -
briars were the cunning rope
that guarded all the waiting days
til he could penetrate your maze.

Strong the magic, dark and fair
twined into her raven hair -
vow of death was wrought and spun
but twisted in the rising sun
to turn the darkness into light,
briar, briar, twisted tight.

Watch where she lies, asleep alone,
while father slumbers on his throne
and kitchen maids sleep on their brooms
and spiders dream while at their looms,
but you, the briars, guarding all,
give way at last to true love's call.

You will not stop him this fair night,
briar, briar, twisted tight -
His lips touch hers, the spell is done
your thorns now vanish in the sun.
As castle wakens from its rest,
your leaves adorn her wedding dress.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sleepy Contentment

How drowsy
this afternoon is,
laying here
as the summer light peeks
through the blind
and across us
as we stretch out in the bed,
your hand tracing
the outline of my thigh
as I listen to your breathing,
and the sound of the clock,
and the ceiling fan.

I would hang onto this moment forever,
sleepy contentment,
of a summer's afternoon.

But since I can't,
I'll put it here,
in my memory's treasure box,
take it out sometime
in a cold dark moment
to wrap myself in its warmth.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Aphrodite in Modern Times: La Divina Fanfiction

The god of war stood before her, his eyes devouring her. "You're alone?" he asked.

She nodded, her golden curls dancing as she stepped up to him. His hand traced fire down the side of her white neck. The beautiful goddess of love's breath caught as she gazed into his eyes, hooded and hungry.

"Now," he said, catching her hand. His other slid to the perfection of her cloth-covered breast. "Don't make me wait."

"What about..." she said.

"Don't even think there," he said, giving a short, hard laugh, and dragged her closer to his body. His mouth plundered hers as his hands swept down her back, stopping at length to fumble for the knots of her belt. "Forget your husband," he murmured. "There's only room for two in your bed."

His mouth trailed hot kisses down her neck and onto her snowy white bosom as he lifted her up and carried her to...

Aphrodite, goddess of love, heard footsteps behind her. She suddenly pushed her monitor button off. Hephaestus her husband stood behind her, fresh from the bath.

He smiled at her, a warm and cheery grin. "Anything worthwhile on the net?" he asked. If he noticed the flush in her cheeks or a touch of excitement, he ignored it.

"Oh, nothing much. Eros and Psyche sent an email invitation to dinner next week."

She frowned, and her husband laughed, walking up behind her. "You would think after 3000 years, you'd learn to appreciate your daughter-in-law," he said, breathing in her ear.

"Some things never change with time," she said, only pouting a bit.

He kissed her earlobe and gently draped a necklace around her throat, fine gold filigree twisted in delicate arabesques. "I made this for you this afternoon while waiting for those stupid oil field engineers to hurry up with their staff meeting. Wonder if they'll ever get any sense. Hope you like it."

She picked up a mirror, and admired her image, then turned around in her seat and took him by the hand, placed it over her right breast.

"Let me show you my appreciation, husband," she said, and led him away to the bedroom.

Later that night, Hephaestus, the clever craftsman of the gods, sat at his own computer as he uploaded another document to the fanfiction site.  It still amazed him how Aphrodite loved reading this trash, but long as she enjoyed "Love and War: The Further Adventures of Aphrodite and Ares," he'd spend his late nights writing them. The hell with the threats Ares was sending him. The payoffs were worth the lost sleep.

A/N According to the old myths, Aphrodite, although married to Hephaestus, the craftsman of the gods, had a long-standing affair with Ares, the god of war. Eros was Aphrodite's son; his wife Psyche was not well loved by Aphrodite, and she rather literally once put her through hell. Interesting to think about how they have adjusted to the modern world...The title is a play on the Italian name of Dante's Divine Comedy, which is a description of one soul's visit to Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Foreplay Using 13 Words

Your lips,
sardonically knowing,
as you brush past my cheek.
I feel your breath
scented with coffee
wrapping around me
as your hand dances across my skin,
your eyes
dominating mine
in that hot soulful gaze
that demands my surrender,
fingertips grazing
the mysteries of my body,
the soft touch
striking just the chord
you want
as you play me like a lute.

You kiss me
and with the blood pounding in my ears,
I turn off the light
and blanket myself with all of you.

Note: This poem came out of a challenge. A poet I know dared people to avoid a list of 13 words in writing their romantic poems, because they are often overused or used in cliche ways. I, being a horrid contrarian, had to write a poem that satisfied me using all 13 words in some form or another. The 13 words were: lips, breath, warmth, scent, touch, eyes, gaze, body, blood, finger(tip)s, skin, kiss, light.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Achlys Contemplates

Before Chaos
was I,
keening grief deeper than night
in the dark heart of the universe.

Who will hear my tears
through the winds of time,
grieving for each wrong,
each loss
each wrong
every hurtful thing
that man or god or fate
can inflict?

My tears,
they fall useless -
all die
all fail -
one by one,
all come to me in the end.

And yet,
from my shadows I watch them,
their souls bright with hope,
each a small ray
of unquenchable light,
tiny motes of brilliance
against the endless night -
hope and grief,
the two truths
behind all the masks.

Ah Universe,
I will bear your pain
shoulder the burden,
keen my way until forever.
You bring forth your light,
and just maybe,
the sorrow would have been worth it.

Note: Achlys was, according to some ancient cosmogonies, the eternal Night (perhaps the Mist of Death, which clouded the eyes of the dying), born even before Chaos. According to Hesiod, she was the personification of misery and sadness.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The North Wind's Wife

West of the Sun, and east of the Moon,
the wind, it sings a lonely tune
as she stirs the soup with wooden spoon
in the house beside the sea.
In this land of deep twilight,
Never day, and never light,
she remembers well the warm sunlight
in her life that used to be.

The spinning wheel goes round and round,
She hums a little to the sound,
and thinks of the life that she has found
in the house beside the sea.
She spins her wool with tender care
but sometime dreams of silk so rare
that she knows that she will never wear
as she pulls the white thread free.

East of the Moon and west of the Sun,
she thinks of the way her life has run,
and checks the bread to see if it's done
in the house beside the sea.
She remembers the moon shining white,
and the feel of the sun in bright daylight,
as she slices the cheese by candlelight,
but knows this was meant to be.

She keeps the fire burning bright
as he makes his rounds by day or night,
leaving her in the gray twilight
in her house beside the sea.
Setting the table with bread and ale
the North Wind rises in a gale
and rattles the door with a lonely wail.
She lets him in happily.