Open Sky

I want a love like open sky
Like winter morning wind
Something that is ache and waking
And sits trembling in my chest

I want a love like open sky
That invites me to grow wings
Make wings
And offers no promise to catch me if I jump

One that cannot catch me if I jump.

I want a love like open sky
With room enough to seek and find
And never know anything more than when I began
Love that when I choose to run
Will follow by simply being

I want expanse and I want distance
I want miles through which to fall and land and break
Accompanied, embraced, unsupported

I want to believe when I am with you I am alone

I want you bitter and raw and biting
And I want you to melt when I breathe

I want to take the broken parts,
throw them to my January wind,
and watch you hold them up like stars
While I unbury what of me is salvagable
The part of me that shivers like a flame in you
Burning happy in the chill

I want you
as you are
tonight

 

 

*Note: I don’t know how long it’s been since I wrote poetry, but I’ve wanted to write this one since before then.

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Amid the Green Corn: Part Twenty

Loops obeyed. His only rebellion was a long stare and a shake of his head. East on Horseback’s youngest son knew better than to do more than that. For now, at least.

If patience was a virtue, there was no more righteous man alive than Loops in the Knot.

He let the dogs run.

The hunt was unspectacular. There was no dramatic summer rain like there had been the last time they chased a Vondergast through the half-forested hills toward the Rilikan encampment, and it was substantially shorter than three days before a mediocre confrontation. The day was sunny, irritatingly windy, and just cold enough to trap Loops into wearing one more layer than was comfortable. There was no singing or drinking along the way, and no bond of fraternal revenge established between the hunters. It was no hunt for the Black Stag.

The Men of March rode in silence, many uncomfortable with the idea of hunting one of their own.They were a new generation–Loops’ generation– one that hadn’t seen the horrors just after the Bond or felt the desperation for communal survival that had turned their fathers against Simon. More still were unsettled by Fire’s change of tone. He had ruled them by preying on their fears of the Rilikan, starvation, and one another, but never of his wrath. His had always been a iron fist, but it had never before held a gun to the head of one of his own.

Still, he had followers left. They showed no joy, but they rode with their heads high, their offense at the nay-sayers apparent even in the silence. No one claimed out loud that Fire was in the right, and no one dared call him wrong. The tension followed the Men of March like a cloud.

Loops had no part in it; he had a job to pretend to do, whether or not he actively did anything. He kept company with the hounds, hoping they weren’t nearly as well trained as he knew at his core they were. There was no leading them away from their task and no disguising the trail. They knew Mercury Rising better than his own son had, and regardless of any human politics they would follow him down into the darkest pits of the earth.

They found him in a hole under a clump of bushes sometime after early evening. Two haunted eyes stared out at Loops in the Knot, and he the panic behind them hit him like a wave. “God, no,” he whispered.

The dogs were ecstatic, two plunging into the hole with him to nuzzle and lick at their master.”Come away,” Loops said to the dogs, attempting to pull them away. “Come this way. Come, goddamit.”

Mercury shook his head. “You have to be careful,” he hissed. “No matter what you do. He’s listening, always listening. He never stops listening, and he’s not nearly as dumb as I always thought. That’s what undid me: my ego. Codes help. Talking where he’s not listening helps. There are places. There are holes.”

“You’ve gone paranoid. Hurry, let me…”

“Shut up. He can hear us. This hole is not a hole. There are other holes that are holes. He’s already found this one.”

“We need to get you to the Rilikan.”

“Mercy.”

“I’m trying.”

“No, not that. There’s no time for that. Go to Mercy. Get out of this. Let him get one good look at you, and the Rilikan will protect you with their lives. I waited too long, and this is where it ends for me.”

“No.”

“You can’t stop it.”

“I won’t go. Come!”

“Stop it!” The moment of lucidity started to fade as desperation took him again. Loops could see it leave his eyes. “You have to go.”

“And what do I do when I get there?” Loops snapped, frustrated.

The old man’s eyes widened. “Then patience will matter. It will be hard, but you have let him writhe under his own weight for a while. Wait until he’s brittle enough to break before you try to bend him.”

“Make sense,” Loops hissed. He could hear footsteps moving through the leaves behind him. “For the love of god, if you have something you have to tell me, make sense.”

Those wide, staring eyes had gone blank. “I’m not even talking to you. I’m talking to the man who must be patient.” The footsteps behind Loops stopped. “I told you he could hear us.”

There was nothing grandiose about it. There was a bang, a hole appeared in Mercury’s forehead, and there was a brief silence before Loops bent and vomited into the leaf mold at his feet. The dogs cried out in fear and grief.

I’m Just Fine, Dear

He blamed himself. He stole my sin from me, and that theft left me breathless with hate–hate he’ll never worm out of me.

What I confess, he takes. My hate is worth defending.

 

Written for Trifecta: Week 113.

Happy Anniversary

I guess today is my 4th anniversary with this blog. I know I’ve been gone for a while, but starting immediately I’ll be back much more often.

Things were hard for a while. Now they’re harder. Now they’re…unfathomable. A silence has come into my life, one so profound even my thoughts sound unbearably loud. No, I’m not okay. No, you can’t help. No, I neither want nor deserve sympathy.

The only thing you or I can do is pray I learn to turn the pain to poetry, because in the end the words are all we have left.

 

Amid the Green Corn: Part Nineteen

Hunts by Night opened his eyes to the ember-glow light of the campfire on the darker side of midnight. There were voices close by–easy, unhurried, comfortable voices. One male. One female.

“But we were there too long.”

“Can’t do that again.”

“He’d catch us. Nearly caught us last time.”

“Couldn’t find mutton broth for the soup.”

He didn’t try to eavesdrop. He had dreamed, and what he had seen was plummeting back into his subconscious mind. Frustrated, he scrambled for it. It had been something important. There had been fire, he remembered that; great upward-rolling walls of flame, pale-edged against the clear sky of a summer day. Not fire. The Fire. Voices screaming and the shwickshh-shwickshh of the grass against his thighs as he ran for the treeline. Night. Nothingness. Loneliness.

“He struck me once. He thought I was reaching for a knife. I swore to God I wasn’t.”

“Were you?”

“Of course I was. And he was twice my size. You don’t know what I would’ve sworn.”

“I don’t even know where you’d find that in this country. Back then especially.”

He had waited in the dark of the forest for someone who was supposed to come and never did. No one came. No one led him home, and he died there in the cool summer rains.

“Before I was born?”

“And I once saw Algiers. You were upstairs with your brother.”

That one cut through his disinterest. He could hear himself, a child, whining “But I want…”. His mother’s voice, laughing and wearily angry: “And I wanted to see Algiers”. What or who or where it was she’d never explained. He didn’t know what it meant, but he knew what she meant: quit complaining because no one gets what they want. It was her phrase, her defeated dream. The woman by the fire didn’t sound like her, but it was her.

“You can’t keep running, you know.”

“I’m not and never was.”

“He’ll catch you.”

“Dead man can’t catch me.”

“Exactly. He’ll catch you.”

An intense feeling of doom rushed over him. He should have listened from the start. This was what was important. Not this, but what it had already been said. He’d missed the important part trying to remember something he’d spent twenty years trying to forget. Stupid; he was blindingly stupid.

“Fire’s not as clean as you think, not if you don’t let it burn long enough.”

“Five cups of chicken stock, one of beef. That was the closest I could come.”

The fear was pinning him to the ground. He couldn’t see them, no matter how hard he tried to lift himself up and look. The man’s voice was muddy but familiar; his mother sounded drunk again.

“Pearl onions. Like he cared.”

“You can’t let him get him. That’s what he wants.”

“Dead men don’t get what they want.”

“Exactly. You can’t let him get him. That’s what he wants.”

There was danger. It wasn’t them. Neither would hurt him, but neither could defend him and he still couldn’t move. Drugged, he had to be drugged somehow.  He tried to shake it off but that only seemed to make it worse.

“Are you awake?”

It was spreading to his lungs.

“Is he awake?”

He was going to die.

“Bridei?”

He gasped and shot upright, on his feet before he realized the pressure on his chest was gone. Triumph started, woken from her doze by the movement. “I’m sorry,” she said, shaking her head in exhaustion and embarrassment. “Bridei, I’m sorry. I didn’t…I must be getting old. This never…”

“Who were you talking to?”

His mother stared at him. “I was asleep.”

“No, you weren’t. You were sitting over there talking to someone.” He pointed. “A man. Someone was here.”

“Calm down.”

“I was lying there listening to you.”

“What did I say?”

He thought. “You said…” He froze.

“You can’t remember.”

“It was just a second ago.”

“And you couldn’t move. You could hear us and you could feel us there, but you couldn’t turn your head to look at us. The minute you moved he was gone and I was asleep.”

Everything seemed jumbled. Night sat down, uncomfortable with the pity in his mother’s eyes. “Yes.”

“Hypnagogic hallucination. Sleep paralysis. Your body was asleep. Your brain was partially awake. It’s not uncommon to imagine a presence, hear voices, or feel unexplained terror.” She shifted, grimacing as she straightened into a sitting pose. “Oh, I am old,” she groaned, rolling her head in circles on her neck. “I used to get them all the time. There was this hotel we used to stay in with your grandparents, and every time we were there on a certain date….” She shook her head. “I don’t know why. It’s pretty much the same as those half-dreams where you fall and wake right when you’d hit the ground, physiologically. They’re just usually more vivid and terrifying. Some people get a sense of euphoria instead, but I’ve never had one of those.”

“Unlucky you.”

His mother snorted and closed her eyes. “Always. Especially when it comes to sleep.”

“Sorry I woke you.”

“I was having a nightmare anyway, I think.”

He laid back down, supporting himself on one elbow. “Ah. What about?”

“Nothing frightening, that was the odd thing. I was only afraid when I woke up. I was just….” Triumph clenched her jaw so quickly her teeth clicked.

“You were what?” The terror of his paralysis seized him again. “Ma, you were what?”

He knew the answer before she said it. “I was sitting by the fire talking to someone.”

“Over there?”

She nodded. “Right next to…”

“Don’t.” She was staring at the bundle she’d left on the other side of the fire. He didn’t dare look, even though he knew nothing had changed. “Don’t.”

 

And THEN…

My husband quit his job, due to an ongoing disagreement with management. Right now, the only thing I’m writing is my resume.

Next week, come hell or high water (ha!), you’re getting a new installment of “Amid the Green Corn”. It’ll be fun. Nobody’s hallucinated yet, right? Can’t have that. Not how I write.

I’ll get right on it.

I’ve Got Nothing

In the last week I’ve had the following happen:

1) The basement flooded due to heavy rains. This was the foundation wall in the storage room (warning: language). Yes, that’s me shouting obscenities, and the scraping noise is me bailing water with a dust pan into some of my brewing equipment. I bailed for two hours before my husband and his brothers got things sandbagged properly. That was last Thursday. We just started moving things back down there last night.

2) Some of my journals were destroyed. Did I mention that the room that flooded was both my husband’s office and our library? We managed to save pretty much everything else, but a couple of my journals are gone. Some were able to be air dried, some were damaged badly enough that if I don’t type them, I’ll lose everything to mold. At least one was totally unrecoverable due to bleeding ink.

3) We had to move the entire library upstairs. I have two kids. The horrors of this should be self explanatory.

4) Someone attempted to steal my car. Pro tip: If you stick a screwdriver into the ignition of a ’03 Buick Century, you’ll do $500 worth of damage and have nothing to show for it. You can’t start one that way. The best part? The would-be thief got into the car by sliding down a faulty window. How could he know the window wasn’t working? Easy. He’s probably the same guy who got in through that same window two weeks ago when it was stuck down and stole my owner’s manual, an expired registration, and my renaissance faire hat. No, I’m not kidding.

5) I had to pay to have the car towed literally across the street to the mechanic because the steering column is locked and I can’t push it.

6) Lacking a car, I’ve had to pull my kid in a wagon to school. Two and a half miles each way.

7) The office in which I work as a bookkeeper also flooded. No paycheck, no hours.

8) I haven’t written a damn word. Not here, not anywhere. Not even in the rough draft of my book, which is 2.5k words from being done and is driving me crazy. Nothing.

 

So, I’m physically worn out, my house is almost unlivable due to clutter, and my husband is constantly in my office. There’s no story this week. I’m sorry. I know it’s no excuse, and I know it’s unprofessional to make excuses. The excuse is has been a story in itself, though. At least it felt like it.

Three

“I told your husband.”

She froze, deciding in the moment it was better than dropping the tray. “You what?”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry, sir, but that wasn’t part of the deal.” She set the tray in front of him. “Sugar?”

“No. Oh, get off; let me do it. It wasn’t not part of the deal, either. For me it was probably seventy percent of the point of the deal. What, did you think I had any actual attraction to you?” He laughed into his teacup.

“No, sir. The act itself made that quite clear. What was the other thirty?”

Her captor shrugged. “About twenty percent was the joy of getting even regardless of if he knew it, and ten was the fact that you can never really have too many concubines.”

“I see. And how did he react to this, sir?”

“He jumped. Into the pit. Oh, did I not mention? Today was supposed to be his execution. Sorry, I’ve always been terrible at stories.”

“He what?”

“Let me start again: I didn’t cancel the execution.”

“But…”

“No ‘but’,” he interrupted. “It wasn’t part of the deal that I do so. Our trade was for a pardon, and I thought it would be more fun to pardon him at the edge of the pit.”

“Why?”

“Oh, picture it, Elsa. You’ve been to executions. In winter, with this black sky streaked red, that pit five miles across and just hurling smoke and fire up toward the stars. Your husband there at the edge, in chains, so small. Just…” He held up two fingers in front of his left eye. “Small. Dirty and small. What a picture, Elsa. How could I pass that up?”

“You couldn’t. You’re insane”

The elf wagged one slender finger at her. “Watch your mouth, Elsa. So I had decided to let him sweat for a bit and then tell him he was pardoned at the very last minute. So I did. He asked why, like I knew he would. See, I wasn’t going to tell him about our little deal if he didn’t ask. Ungrateful. It’s that sort of curiosity is the reason humans ended up in this mess, you know. You can’t just…”

“So you told him. And he jumped.”

“Oh yeah. Flying leap, then straight down into the fire. Boop.”

“You’re lying.”

“Am I? Look at me. I’m giddy. Have you ever seen me giddy? What would give me this much childlike joy other than sending your pain-in-the-ass husband to hell? I’m stuck on this awful rock with the mass of filth that calls itself the human race. No victories, no promotions, just squashing the occasional insurrection and stealing the wife of every man who participated. It’s boring, Elsa. Just so boring. The only thing I ever have to look forward to is  one of you grubs dying spectacularly. The more I hate the individual in question, the better it feels, and considering the six months he put me through I’d say I’m entitled to be dizzy with excitement.”

“And are you, sir?”

“You bet I am.”

“Are you sure, sir?”

“Of course I’m sure. And his face! I wish I could show you. Should’ve had a photographer out there. I’ll have to do that next time. Write me a note and leave it on my desk. ‘Photographer next time’. Go on, then, I can manage my own tea.” Elsa folded her hands under the rough canvas of her apron and stared at him. “What are you…oh, I’m sorry. I did kill your husband, didn’t I? Do you need a minute?”

“It’s not that, but yes.”

He sighed. “Sit down then. I don’t want you fainting all over my office. Humans still do that, right?”

“I never have. Thank you, though.” She sat in the chair opposite him, still staring. “You didn’t kill him. I did.”

“Well, you were trying to help, but you are only human. Not the first time I’ve seen something like this happen. Pride like that is common among males of your species. You’d think you’d have figured that out by now, but no, not humans. If ever…”

“I’m sorry, sir, but if it wouldn’t be too much to ask might I have a cup of tea as well?”

“You’re becoming a little familiar for my liking, Elsa,” he said coldly. “I don’t….” He froze, his eyes darting from her to the teapot and back again. “How many people did you kill today, Elsa?”

“Well, if you let me have a cup that’ll make three.”

“Why am I not surprised? Goddamn humans.” He finished his cup and handed it to her. “Goddamnit. Pour it yourself.”

“Yes, sir.”

 

A note: Originally started as an entry to a writing challenge, but my internet went out and I missed the deadline. I wouldn’t mention it at all, but the prompt was the setting “in a penal colony built by elvish astronauts” and I feel like that might be necessary information. If this were properly executed (ha!) it wouldn’t be, but here we are.

Amid the Green Corn: Part Eighteen

“You asked for me, sir?”

“I did,” Mercy said. “Were you busy?” Star Between the Peaks shook her head. “Good. We need to talk. Come sit with me. In front of me, please.”

“Like mom does when you comb her hair?” she asked, laughing.

He held up her mother’s comb–a worn piece of wood made beautiful by age and oil and use. “Exactly. You need to start wearing yours up. Come, sit.”

She sat. “Any particular reason?”

“Because you’re going to be the queen of the Rilikan. Bend your head down.” She jerked away, turning to stare at him. “Ada, please.”

“She’s been gone a week.”

“I didn’t say now. Good God, child. Come here.” Slowly, still glaring, she obeyed. “Eventually, though. If she comes back–as I’m sure she will–it’ll fall to you eventually. The transition will go more easily if we all get used to the idea now. You don’t have to make plans. You don’t have to lead the charge against the Men of March or anything like that–so help me I’d slap the thought out of you if you suggested it. They’ll not get my girl while I can help it.” He worked carefully, unused to her curls. “All I ask is that you plant the tiniest seed in the minds of your people. Give them a hint of what’s to come. Wear your hair up.”

“Be like mom. Ow!” she cried as he tapped her on the crown with the flat of the comb.

“Don’t you dare.”

“I meant no disrespect to her.”

“I meant ‘don’t you dare be like her’.”

“Oh.”

Mercy resumed combing. “No one on this planet has ever loved your mother the way I do. No one. I spent ten years without her once, and I’d rather have spent ten in purgatory. If some catastrophe arose wherein I could only save one person she’d be my ninth choice, no questions asked. That being said, your mother is perennially blind with rage. She’s damaged. More than damaged. Ruined. She is a reckless, angry, wild woman, and the safest thing you could ever do is to be as unlike her as you can. If you’d like to call your sisters in I’ll give them the same advice in a heartbeat.”

“It’s so strange to hear you say this.”

“Well, one of us had to say it, and I’m sure it’d be even stranger coming from her.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean we decided I’d have this talk with you while she’s away, because it’d be harder for the two of you to talk about. I’m not calling her crazy behind her back.”

“So, what, you two sat down before she left and decided as a couple how best to tell me that mom’s mental and I should try not to be the same?”

He stopped. “Of course. Why? Is that strange?”

“I wish I could say it was.”

“None of that’s the point, though. The point is that people need to be aware of the line of succession, even if only subliminally. It helps them feel secure, helps them trust. Fear of instability can destroy a clan just as fast as actual instability. There’s a war on, and your mother’s fifty. They’re starting to fear for their future. They don’t know it, but they are.”

She shrugged. The stress and loneliness of her mother’s absence was making the old man paranoid, but she’d never say it. “So they need to know four steps down the line?”

“Four? Who do you think is in front of you?”

“You. Bridei.”

“Bridei is your mother but quieter and with a different set of bits. He’s endured every single thing she has, plus some things of his own. He’s stood by every grave she’s dug. My God, he lost a child he’d named after the child she lost. The rage hasn’t set in yet, but if he was here I’d say to give him ten years. Considering why he’s gone, I’d say give him five. The rage will come. It’s natural. It grows on their grief like mold on cheese.”

“And what about my grief? What about my anger?”

“Yours is different. Not less–not a single bit less–but different. There is a difference between righteous anger and bitter anger. Young anger and old anger. You chased Michael.  You left your brother in the dirt and chased his killer, and I swear Ada I was never prouder of you. Turn your head left.” She did, shutting her eyes to hide the tears. “Anger came first, and when anger comes first it fades to grief with time. Anger like that can be outgrown. It can be fixed. That’s the anger that heals if you outlast it. And you will outlast it. Believe me.

“But theirs isn’t an avenging anger. It builds. They don’t get over things. Your mother made this clan out of her anger, and that’s why Bridei can never be king: his anger feeds on hers. When the rage comes it will be the rage of the son of a murdered father and the brother of a murdered man and the brother of a butchered child and the father of a short-lived son–with all of your mother’s anger underneath that. He will be Triumph multiplied. The Rilikan can’t safely exist on that level, but they can on the level on which they were founded: righteous anger. One reaction to one act. Clive and Maxie for her, Alastair for you.”

They sat in silence for a moment while she thought. “It seems to be a Brastas thing.”

“Mullen, I’d say.  Sweeter Spring and Light Come Early are like you, but the other four have it too.”

“Either way. You’re not like that.”

Her father laughed. “Well thank you.”

“So I’m third in line, then.”

“Second. I think I’ll make a wonderful king dowager, don’t you?”

“Dad…”

“It’s been discussed.” There was no severity in the way he said it, but Star understood there would be no argument. She waited for him to explain.

“So,” he said, setting down the comb and giving her hair a slight jiggle to bring some of the curls back to shape, “what’ll it be? French? Rope? Five strand? You used to like a five strand when you were little. No Dutch. Your mother wears a Dutch braid. Give them a little taste of the difference. No Dutch. What about a crown braid?”

Star buried her face in her hands. “Dad, I don’t want to do this.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Can you…could you maybe manage a waterfall crown? Not a full crown. I just…”

“I certainly can. I think that’d look lovely on you.”

One, Please.

He stood and pressed his ear to the wall.

“A large one, if you have any left. I know it’s that time of day.” Their voices made him sick. Glutinous, drooling voices pitched almost below the range of human hearing. They were wrong, too wrong to be real. He couldn’t imagine what the creatures must look like.

“Plenty. Male or female?”

“Male.” His throat tightened.

“Alright.” There was a click, and the room slid forward. He fell against the wall. The customer spoke again, but he couldn’t hear what was said over his own screams. The room jerked to a halt.

“I’m sorry, I just prefer them. It’s the only brand that does the sedative injections; the rest have that adrenaline aftertaste. I can’t stand it.”

“Not a problem. I know what you mean. Gives me a headache.”

“Saving them for yourself, then. I’m on to you.” They both laughed politely, and a room–a different room–moved somewhere along the line.

He curled into a ball and wept.

A Note: Originally written as an entry for Trifecta: Week Ninety-One, but I then realized I’d gone and used the word wrong. Oh well. It’s been removed from the challenge, but it’ll stay here.