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.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Tale the Lilitu Told

You ask?
I shall tell you then,
O brave man,
as you sit there,
beneath the silver moon,
while the breeze stirs the leaves,
while the incense wafts up to the sky
in pale, ghostly tendrils,
and the fire burns low,
and you smile at me,
in this gods-forsaken place.

I shall tell you then,
a tale of how a maiden
running from what she knew,
the taste of the whip,
a man's unwanted touch
things she feared more than the wilderness,
moved across the wastes
from shadow to shadow,
desperate in her thirst,
hiding from the hard ways of men,
until she found
the more unfathomable ways
of those who are not men,
not really.

His eyes glowed golden in the midnight,
and his oiled hair shone
beneath the moon, fragrant.
Even though I hid, shaking like a leaf,
in the cleft of a rock he should not have noticed,
he did,
and gazing at me,
seeing into night's depth,
his golden eyes pierced me.
His limbs grew smoke-like,
wrapping around me in the shadows,
tasting my skin,
touching me until I burned with fire.
Fire, yes,
I was the fuel he needed,
and as he drew me out of the cleft,
he consumed me utterly.

Thus I am what you find tonight,
a voice in the shadows,
I would run away, if I were you,
lest you find me
wrapping my hunger all around you,
kissing your golden skin
beneath the moonlight,
ready at last
to feed.

The Assyrian lilitû were said to prey upon children and women and were described as associated with lions, storms, desert, and disease. They were highly sexually predatory towards men but were unable to copulate normally. They were thought to dwell in waste, desolate, and desert places.