celestina dances

inside the tree trunks, bleached white and spotted with age, kneel old men. Even though they are creaky, their limbs are sinewy and well defined. They genuflect inside the trunks, feet rooted into the earth, toenails tangled with roots until one is not discernible from the other, heads bent. They have beards, knotted and dread-locked, that dangle between their knees, clumps dancing forward and back with each inhale and exhale. The old men are tired, and wish to retire.

from a distance, a reedy and melodious whistle floats along the breeze, teasing ears and quickening minds long passed into a meditative state. The dawn comes, and spring breaks. The whistling dances closer, and becomes a song. The old men do not move, except for their faces, where smiles spread and break through wrinkled cheeks. Celestina comes.

she pirouettes through the dappled light on the muddy ground, arms extended in graceful arches, gliding as fluidly as water around a rock. The dirt does not bother her; she revels in spinning on tiptoes in the mud, the soft and loving squelch and the smell of good, clean earth drifting up. In her wake, trailing in the notes of her music as surely as the rats enthralled by the Piper, are the children.

Their voices remain hushed and reverential, but within those boundaries of respect bordering on awe, is the joyful shriek and commotion of children everywhere, the ecstasy of being alive. Now that they are in sight of the trees, they are freed from their restraints and run towards them, somersaulting and leaping over each other, good natured shoving and tumbling, laughter everywhere. They dive into the soft ground at the trees bases, wiggling and squiggling until they pop up in between the feet of the old men.

Dirty hands on old cheeks, the children place kisses on each eyelid of each old man, bidding them to open and to see again. The old men smile wider as they welcome the youth to their new homes, returning the kisses with gentle, scratchy bearded pecks before rising slowly to their full heights. Arms elongate and fingers stretch as they lift their hands towards the sky, gnarled knuckles inhabiting branches and twigs, mixing and merging until all is one and the same.

In the heady rush of becoming temporary guardians, the children go wild. They sing and scream and holler back and forth as they dance around their tree’s trunk, inside and out, to the edges of the smallest, barren twig and back. Budding and growth, color seeping into leaves until a riot of color blooms across the forest like a rolling wave crashing across the horizon.

Celestina dance. Spring comes.

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the last cigarette

Yesterday, I smoked my last cigarette. I told myself that, out loud, when I lit it, while I was smoking it, and after I was done with it, lest my brain try to make the excuse, well, but sure I didn’t know that it was my last one, and so I must have one more, just one more, so as to savor the moment. That’s what brains do, when they belong to me. They manipulate excuses like a saucy saboteur, creating a framework that allows for failure before the mission has even begun. Brains. What egotistical assholes.

There have been a few times over the twenty-four years that I have smoked where I felt ready to quit. I hated it, I was tired of the smell and the taste and the coughing, and the plethora of other shit side effects that everyone on the damn planet already knows about. For whatever reason, with a desperate immediacy, I would be smoking again and more often that not at a faster pace and larger quantity, within a day, two at most.

This time? Not so much. I feel the habit lurking, the habit of the act of rolling a cigarette, of smoking one after eating, or with my morning cup of coffee, but not the desire to act on it. My psyche isn’t offering compromises or cheats, it’s not screaming at me or taunting me, it’s just there; like a ghost in the background, it’s floating around, kind of confused and not able to affect the matter around it.

I even told my kid I was quitting, and as he is the person in the world that I am most loathe to disappoint, that’s holding myself to a level of accountability I haven’t previously subjected myself to.

I have high hopes that for the first time in my adult life, I will not be a smoker.

Categories: Non-Fiction Nonsense | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Shine a light

light

Shine a light,
a penlight, a flashlight, a torch,
over all your jaggedy edges and ugly corners,

Let them have their moment in the sun.

Illuminate, illumine,
give weight to the scrawny and underdeveloped,
stretch your muscles
and test your resolve,

widen the cracks of consumption.

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Rubble

there are things worth saving, if

you scrabble through the rubble. Stones, strong stones, upon which to rebuild the foundation, cracked stones,

for fissures make interesting ornamentation, and add character where flaws once were. 

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blurred boundaries

slip-slide into dreams
roughshod into the light,
popping stitches and bursting seams.

one doesn’t end, one doesn’t begin,
Ouroboros waking,
rising, consuming, without to within.

edges blending into light,
particles dancing,
panicked with delight.

one moment to ponder,
if meaning, then life,
if not, to wander.

Categories: Fiction, Poetry | Tags: | 2 Comments

Curled up

Waking on an island, more aptly called a person sized pebble, they feel smooth stone underneath their cheek. Their knees are pulled up under their chin and their strong arms are wrapped protectively around their middle. There is a light without source to illuminate their space and they are grateful. They do not mind being alone, but they would prefer not to be so in the dark.

The dreams and cries of billions make up their roof overhead, a featureless dome of sound and thought. They think at first their dreams are up there too, until they feel them still inside their skull, papery moth wings beating gently against the walls of their cage. They find that they have not yet found the key to releasing those dreams into the wild, letting them fly free, and this they regret, just a little. They know that once those dreams are given the freedom to take flight, to flock within the turbulent masses overhead, that those dreams, their dreams, will be subsumed by the whole, either to take root and sprout their own little daydream babies or to dissipate into the cacophony.

They discern that perhaps the key they have yet to turn is hidden within acceptance, that they will never know the fate of their dreams until they are allowed to roam and explore the corners of their world; that to let dreams outgrow their fishbowl is to allow them to mutate, to give blessing the influence of yet more dreams. They are not quite ready for this yet.

As the dreams beat ever more incessantly, insistently, demandingly, to be given fresh sights to see, they smile quietly and tighten their arms around their middle, pull their knees up just a little bit closer to the chin. They will hold them close, just this little while longer, on this island, alone.

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Granny’s Graveyard Stew

The old woman heard the mutters and the lightly placed footsteps creeping up the gravel path; her gnarled knuckles tightened around the ladle as she continued to stir her pot, switching to widdershins while thin lips twisted into a sardonic smile. Always they came, and always they left, running with their screams trailing behind them, the speed of sound not able to keep up with the speed of terrified feet. She never could figure why, what with how smart they certainly seemed to think they were, that they never figured out that there was no way to quietly sneak down a gravel road, and that it was well nigh impossible to sneak up on a witch.

She blinked a few times and a glamour settled over the former rectory like a set dressing. Fat black candles became slim, white tapers, dark grimoires became cookbooks, and the broom that leaned against the back wall became, well, it stayed a broom, but it stopped vibrating as it normally did while waiting to be ridden at midnight. As the dingy rune covered window-shades morphed into filmy pink curtains covered with pictures of kittens, the front door was shoved open hard enough to hit the opposite wall with a bang so loud it even surprised the man who had done the shoving.

“Conjurer!” he screamed, pointing a finger so accusatory she felt it like a poke in the back from across the room and had to fight to keep the smile on her face as she turned to face this latest mob. A motley crew it was, too, she thought to herself as she got a good look. Either the village was inbreeding all courage and manliness from its population, or there just weren’t many left who hadn’t already visited her. They never did return for seconds.

The four men behind him bumbled and stumbled into his back when he froze, just inside the doorway, gaping in slack-jawed disbelief at the homey, and pink, décor. This went against all that he had learned of witches and enchantresses at his Mam’s knee. While the woman herself fit his imagination with her warts and craggy brown teeth (in reality, she was quite a lovely older woman, with gently waving grey hair and only fine lines bracketing the corners of her eyes; the illusion was just an extra bit of good fun for her), her surroundings were disconcertingly saccharine.

“Gentlemen,” she called out gaily. “You’ve arrived just in time for lunch! Oh, I’m so happy to have you here. I’m afraid that having lunch with the same people all the time rather deadens the conversational possibilities! You five look like a fine, lively bunch!” She gestured with her ladle, waving them in and towards the table, grinning inwardly at her clever wordplay. “I’ve got a wonderful pot of stew here I’ve just finished stirring, I insist you sit at once and have a bowl. The rest of my guests should be here any moment, but we needn’t wait on them. Sit, sit!”

Raised to be polite and say things like yes ma’am, thank you ma’am, the men were awkwardly shuffling forward and towards the table before they’d really begun to process whether or not this was a great idea and how had they gone from decrying a Satanist to eating stew with her in a scant few seconds. Before the fifth man’s ass had even hit his chair, the old woman was swooping in with almost over-filled wooden bowls of fragrant stew to place in front of them, chattering all the while, distracting them from the parade of zombies making their way down the gently sloping hill towards the always open back door.

“Rrrnnnggghhhh,” said the first one in. She’d long since stopped trying to do exact translations of their grunts and groans, but guessed closely enough that he was saying something along the lines of, mmmm that smells good. Or maybe it was who the hell is in my chair, how in the hell was she supposed to know? The other zombies bounced gently off of his back in a slow motion parody of what the accusers had done upon their entrance. Eventually they broke around him in a wave of rotting flesh and ambled towards the table.

She turned back towards the villagers with a fierce and pointed smile. “Granny’s Graveyard Stew, m’boys. Smells good enough to wake the dead.”

*****

FINALLY! I got something written in time to meet the Deadline, and this time I’ll remember the cutoff for the voting! Goodness me, but life can make zombies out of all of us upon occasion….

The above picture (which is really, really cool by the way) and the (noun) word stew were our prompts for this week’s Grammar Ghoul Press Mutant 750 Challenge. Go here and read awesome stuff 🙂 http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/gg-writing-challenge-18/

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Messenger

“I announced myself, loud as you please!”
“Well, I didn’t hear you.”
“You couldn’t have not heard me!”
“Well, I didn’t hear you.”
“This is ridiculous. Call an ambulance round.”
“I can’t do that.”
Why in hell wouldn’t you call an ambulance round?”
“Because I didn’t hear you.”
“I am supposed to be the one that you do NOT shoot!”
“You should have said that first.”

***

A Monty Python inspired bit for Grammar Ghoul Press’s first ever Chimera 66 micro story challenge (The kickoff post is one of the funniest and most adjective laden call to arms that I’ve ever read, so go read it and play if you want to here: http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/chimera-66-writing-challenge-1/#more-921 ). Use their definition of the prompt word for a 66 word bit of writing; this week the word was messenger

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Laying Down My Mantle

We are all given a gift when we are born. We unpack our mantles, shake them out, and wrap them around our shoulders. They are, each one of them, custom made.

Some can wear them with aplomb, splendid things spun about with flourish, decorated with a filigree that was meant to be. They are not such a bother, these embellished mantles. Some merely hang around, a gossamer wisp of possibility, mostly neither here nor there. Some become yokes, yokes that grow heavier in such small increments that we do not realize how far they are weighing us down until we find that we have stooped so low that we can no longer see the sky.

I have chosen to lay down my mantle, to re-pack this outer garment that no longer suits me. It has grown dank and dark; unobserved, it has become worn through with holes through which I can see the glory of the layer that existed underneath. I will snip each thread, one by one, until the whole falls apart. I will burn through the thread of guilt, the guilt of being the one to choose to put my burden to rest, of being the one who has decided that I want to stand tall once more. I will tear apart with my teeth the thread that holds me to your remorse, the thread that has tethered the responsibility for carrying your mantle, along with my own, around my neck. I will leave you free to decide whether your mantle is one that you wish to bear. I have loosened the clasp around my throat, and now I wind it, gently, back around your own.

The patchwork of holes that will always remain have left me emptier than I was before, missing little bits of me, colorful pieces of happier times. Within it, though, is a lightness, a buoyancy that could not exist without the pockets of empty. The edges may have darkened, but the vibrancy of what was cannot be dimmed.

We are all born with a mantle, to wrap around ourselves. Today, I will fold mine up in tissue paper, and slide its box underneath my bed to rest with the cobwebs that will never be swept up, so that tomorrow, tomorrow I may stand tall.

Categories: Non-Fiction Nonsense | Tags: , , | 11 Comments

What’s Left

I want to rage but you want to cry,
and so I whimper.
I want to sing but you want to sleep,
and so I whisper.

You win by default, never warning me
your compromises are comprised
of a hundred tiny deaths.

Categories: Fiction, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , | 25 Comments

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