Tuesday, December 14, 2010


It should really be the title of a story, that, but since I'm too lazy and distracted to tell proper stories anymore, I'll tell 'em in verse instead. These prompts struck me odd, so you get two stories - the same question, with two different answers.

Funny thing about the word. It was going to be the word I submitted for this round of Word & Question, but I was afraid someone might find it too cheap, so I gave instead a word that Dylan handled wonderfully. In return, I got the word I actually wanted, and was immediately excited about the possibilities.

The answers, though, were harder to find than I at first thought. Still, I found them. And here are the stories, in the order I'd like you to remember them.

Word: Snow
Question: Is this not something more than fantasy?

The First Story
Crunch, crunch, crunch
Virgin snow defiled
Purest white destroyed
Innocence beguiled

Darkness falls
Barren, dirty lands
All around is death
Bleak, the fate of man

Blackness burns
Fantasies to ash
Lost beneath the weight
Beauty turned to trash

Spring arrives
Snow dissolves away
Has no memory
Life fades into day

Hope, hope, hope
To find redemption
In love's glowing embers
I, I remember

The Second Story
Alone he sits and waits
Thinks of her, and oceans
Lying past the gates
Somewhere in between them
Waves that stir like words unspoken
Words yet understood
That rise, fall, dip and swell
A gently rolling token
Of the dreams they've yet to dream
Of stories yet to tell
And softly blowing fairytales
That swirl and whisper in his ear
The warmth of fires hid in winter
Hidden from the driving snow
Hidden, burning ever quicker
Leaping flames that long to go
Across the air, across the sea
To find the arms of which he dreams
At last to rest, at last to be
Alone at home, and love to know
As something more than fantasy

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

W & Q Teaser

Quite by accident, this old poem of mine happens to do a decent job of using my word and answering my question (of course, it only answers the question if you know the poems history... and the question). I will, of course, post an actual Word & Question original poem some time in the next week (I'm hoping for inspiration on my caving trip this weekend). Until then, enjoy this little throwback to my college days of versified romance. Cheers.


Falling snow, fall softly down
And sparkle in her raven hair
Winter wind, slip carefully
Across her face so fair
And bring a rosy glow
Into those cheeks as white as snow
Stars above, look tenderly
Upon this pretty lass of mine
White moonlight, glisten now
Shine in her kind green eyes
Oh show me nothing lovelier
Than this soft and glowing sight
Falling snow, fall softly down
And warm this chilly, winter night.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Word and Question 6

Okay, I just had a perfect, happy little line spring into my head not too long ago, but I'm gonna develop the idea that occurred to me on the drive home, and see where it leads. As usual, I'm shooting offhand...

Word: Apologia
Question (answered obliquely): On what altar do you place your hopes and dreams?

The Altar of the Traveler
"Ramp" the sign says
Nothing more
He takes it
He has to go somewhere

Innocent, she was
Then a whore
Now she runs
To someone, anywhere

Broken, shattered glass
On the floor
Art is there
Mosaics made aware

Cross of splinters
Shards of wood
Dig at skin
Another cross to bear

Altar standing
Marble door
Come from far
Find shelter on its stair

For a life
Never made
Laid upon the altar

Of the traveler

I like this one, in a strange way. It is my first attempt at keeping some sort of form (though a syllable got misplaced  here and there, and a rhyme scheme dropped along the way). I still prefer free verse, if only because I find it easier to play with words in ways that amuse me when I'm not trying to fit them in a puzzle. Still, I hope you like it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Blues from San Jose

I'm late, I'm tired, no clever header. This is word and question.

I really, really hate the word plenitude. It's one of my reactionary habits.

My question is probably obvious.

On my way from San Jose
My mind on blues and sin
I met an ass with much to say
Of what he'd done and where he'd been
He sought "a plenitude of drink and lights
And debauchery in San Jose"
And asked me, whether left or right
To send him on his merry way
I thought it odd, this prating ass
And the city of lights, or death
Was, I suppose, his way to pass
For something human, something with breath
Though from his tales he seemed
A dark and wicked, violent thing
With little air of kindness, and in his eye a gleam
I thought he'd gladly tear me, and all the while sing
Of thirty-twos and twenties,
And break my back in two.
But he'd not seen the dark behind me
And in a fit of orn'ry, loathing blues
I spit upon the ass's face
And prayed to San Jose
A good death to die, in grace
For I'd not show the way.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Word and Question 4


Welcome to Word and Question, and to Crosses and Cradles, if this is your first time here. Please, look around, I haven't written as much as I'd like, especially lately, but perhaps you'll run across something you like. For more information see one of my previous W&Q entries, or go to Shredded Cheddar. If you're playing, post a link or a poem in the comments. If you aren't, please go read the poems that others have written as well. They're always fun.

As usual, I'll be awarding phantom points if you can guess the question (the word would be nearly impossible with this one). I'll reveal it in the comments later. I think it's more fun that way. Here goes:

The Litany of Apathy
Upon the fields of war it stands
Walks beside a lover, hand in hand.
It kneels on cold, cathedral floors
And dances on the open moor.
Beside a stream, it sleeps
In peace lies down, in sorrow, weeps
But the lonely ones, the tired
Sit upon a stone. The souls no longer fired
With intensity or love of beauty
In despair, or apathy await
The fealty they've sworn to fate
They find no joy, no sense of duty
Nothing but the patter of the rain upon the rock
Soaked and broken, no heroes, they
Solitary souls they sit, and say
The litany of apathy, "No good has come to me
No good of me shall come, but waiting
I shall stay, upon the rock, beneath the rain
And let the souls more brave than mine
Carry on their show, for they but feign
To smile on those stone cold floors
And dance upon the barren moors
And hand in hand they're all cut down
In fire they burn, in blood they drown
And whence their joy, their hope?"
So, bent and alone, without a care
No gentle touch this soul can stir
For he alone may foreswear
A foolish oath, and stand a man
To be, and hold, and dance, and kneel
The truth to seek, the sun to feel
And love to know at last, and understand

Monday, August 23, 2010

Word and Question 2

SELECT Wish FROM tblWishes
WHERE Depth='Deepest'

Time for the second round of Word & Question via Shredded Cheddar. This time I will tell you the word and the question... well, I sort of already did. But read the poem first, then you can get your geek on.

The Caverns of the Soul
Many deeply planted longings
Overshadowed day to day
Struggle oft to reach the surface
Struggle 'neath a pressing weight
Of cynical routine
And apathetic waste
The complex that bear not speaking
The simple found in but one word
I've known them all and plummed their depths
Some have sprouted seedling hopes
Others laid to rest
But down within the recesses
Beyond the simple and complex
Beyond the arm around a waist
The breath of sea and whispering leaves
The sunset burning hills that grieve
For the souls that fall from grace
Deep within the caverns
Lies a seed of hope
To see and feel and know and be
Beyond the hills, beyond the sea
Drowned in love and ecstasy
To embrace, and be embraced

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Word and Question


I came across this little game on my friend Enbrethiliel's blog (well, I seem to remember she prayed for me at least once, which makes us friends, even if that mostly consists of me stalking her on her blog :P). The rules and original post are here, and the latest round was posted last week.

The general idea is that each participant puts a word and a question into a virtual hat, and then gets one of each in return. Then, everyone writes a poem that uses the word and answers the question.

So, without further fanfare and adieu (yes, yes, I know), I give you:

Matrix Analysis

Always planning everything
Chasing notions round
Never doing anything
Staring at the ground
Thinking through the angles
Rhymes and imagery
And decision matrices
Trying to untangle
Every little signal
That I'm sending with a word
Plotting looks and tones
And drowning out the drone
Of voices saying "overthinking
Is all you ever do"
But know that simpler, pretty verses
Spring from moments unrehearsed
And in an hour, maybe two
Thought fades into beauty
And ponderous soliloquies
Of what is, and ought to be
Are tossed aside for hope, and you

Did you know it's social protocol to tell me it's wonderful and you can't wait to read more of my poetry? Really, it's what you do when you have a friend who's proud of something they really suck at!

I will award points for the first person to correctly identify: what that last paragraph was a reference to; what my word was; what my question was. These are fiat points, and like cloth money, they have no intrinsic value, but they're fun.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Not Even a Mother

Daddy never knew.  She thought he wouldn’t like it.  Daddy wasn’t around very often, though, so she was happy with me.
When I was little, I didn’t know, either.  Then I went to school.  The teachers knew.  The other kids knew.  Sometimes the teachers let me play games with the boys.  They didn’t like me, so I didn’t ask very often.  I didn’t like dolls, though.  They were for sissies.  Maybe I was a sissy.  I don’t know.  I didn’t understand.  I just didn’t like being called names.
I tried to play outside sometimes, but she always caught me.  She yelled at me – said I wasn’t supposed to be like this.  I didn’t know what I wasn’t supposed to be like.
She and daddy fought a lot.  They fought every time he was home, I think.  I didn’t like it when daddy was home.  She made me put on different clothes.  Mostly I lay on my bed and cried.  I was a sissy.  She yelled at daddy.  She thought I didn’t hear, but I did.  Ugly things, names and bad words, and things I didn’t understand.
I learned to be quiet.  Once, daddy asked me if I wanted to play baseball.  I said yes.  Later, she told me that I would tell him I didn’t want to.  Otherwise I would “get it.”  I didn’t know what she meant.  She looked upset, so I told daddy I changed my mind.  I didn’t like baseball.
On my eighth birthday, daddy had to leave.  He didn’t come back.  I was sad, but she shushed me and brushed my hair.  She said she loved me, that I was her good little girl.  She said that daddy didn’t understand, that he didn’t like me, and that was why he left.  That made me cry.  She brushed my hair and whispered, “Shhhhhhhh. Hush baby; don’t cry.”
After daddy left, I never had to change clothes.  She was much happier.  I thought I should be happy, but I wasn’t.  I was sad, but I did not say anything.  I didn’t not want to upset her.  I tried to be happy.  Things started changing.  I was different.  I didn’t know why.  I was getting older.  The girls began to giggle about the boys.  I did not understand.  I tried to giggle, but I didn’t want to.  The boys did not pay attention to us.
Then we started to change in other ways, but I was broken.  The girls were getting pretty, and funny things were happening to them.  Funny things were happening to me, too, but I wasn’t getting pretty.  The girls stopped giggling around me.  The boys whispered about the girls, but they did not whisper about me.  They called me names.  I was still a sissy.
She was sad.  I asked her why I was broken.  Why did the other girls get pretty?  Why did they start looking like grown up women while I was still the same?  She told me not to ask stupid questions, that I was pretty and just didn’t know it.  I didn’t think so.  The boys didn’t think so.  I didn’t care what the boys thought, though.
When I was twelve I ran away. Mommy had hit me again, but this time she screamed something she’d never said. She screamed, “Dammit Jackie, you were supposed to be a girl! Damn you!”
I didn’t know what she meant. I thought I was a girl. I felt feelings, confused feelings. She just turned away and wouldn’t look at me. I tried to ask what she meant, but she didn’t answer.
I left home then. Away I ran, far away to another world. I don’t know where I went, but here I am. They looked at me funny when they found me. Later I understood, but only later, after they bought me new clothes and burned my dress, and after they told me I would be called Jack.
I don’t know why mother tried to make me something else. I think she wanted a little girl. I think she was sad when I was born. So sad that she got crazy. I never saw her again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Kite in the Sky

Way back my freshman year, back when people still used aim to talk to one another, when xanga was cool, in the days when facebook was just a little sprat trying to insinuate its way into all the colleges across the nation, I had a conversation with a friend about a writing assignment she'd been given. That conversation led to this little bit of a piece. It's raw, but I kind of like it.

A long time ago there lived a strange people. They were strange in many ways, but our story is only concerned with a certain tradition they had regarding kites. Every spring the young men of the land would fly a kite with the colors of their house. They would stay outside every day from sunrise to sunset flying their kites, and the young ladies would visit with them all.

Now as spring began to draw to a close they would spend more and more time with the same person every day, until on the last day of spring each young man would go to a chosen place to wait. While they waited they would fly their kites to guide their beloved to where they were. Meanwhile the young ladies would spend the morning inside, preparing for their wedding. At noon, each young lady would set off to find the kite of her betrothed.

One year it chanced that a virtuous young man of modest descent was awaiting a very special girl. She was all that he could dream. Her smile shattered and consumed him, and the day before she had told him what none of the others thought would ever be – that she would be his wife.

And so he waited through the morning, flying the colors of his house with pride and gazing at the wonder that lay around him.
When noon came his heart began to race. Soon he would see her floating across the plain. Then together they would return to the city, where they would be joined in the holy bonds of matrimony.

As the afternoon progressed he began to be worried. He could not believe she would betray him, but she should have arrived long ago. He could not have known what was happening in the town, where the girl’s family, outraged at her humble choice, had locked her in her room.

Through the night he waited; she did not come. Five days later his heart sank inside him, for he knew he would never see her again. Whether or not he knew of her death is not mine to tell. She did die, though – locked in a room far from his love she died, lonely and afraid.

The young man then made a vow to never again set foot in his homeland. He ran off to the mountains where it is always winter. There he waited for his love, sleeping in the day and flying his kite in the dark hours, when his heart was coldest. He is there still, and if you look to the north you can see his kite in the sky, where it guides all travelers except the one that he most longs to see.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bridge of Sighs

Back in higschool, I dreamed I was a political writer. This is a blatant ripoff of Roller Ball with some Red Dawn thrown in for good measure. Read it slowly while listening to Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor.

I suppose I should tell you who I am and why I am here, but I don’t see how it matters; for who I am will soon be irrelevant, and as to why I am here, well, perhaps I should explain that, but I simply can’t. All I can think about is Her. Well, after all, she is the reason I’m here. Wait, my name. Well, what does it matter? Nothing! But I already told you that.

If only I could forget, then all would be right; if only I did not see her face constantly before me, her bright eyes glistening with love and sorrow. If only her voice did not haunt me so. But no, over and over I hear her telling me that she loves me, that she won’t forget, and I see her slender fingers stretched out, reaching for a vision that they could not hold. I see her, clawing frantically at the empty air in a vain attempt to recapture the past, and finally collapsing helplessly in the arms of her captors as the tears stream down her face and leave a glistening stain on her beautiful features.

Oh! Dear God why did I ever love her? Why did I ever think they would not care? I’ll tell you why, because she was poor, and I was poor, and The Three don’t notice the poor. But they noticed her. Oh! They noticed her. I thought we were safe in our love – that nothing could come between us. Safe! Yes, until one of Them cast his eyes in her direction…just a glimpse of her beauty, and all this.

All this – wet, cold, dark, the rats scurrying about the cell much as my thoughts scuffle through my mind, flitting to and fro – the water dripping monotonously on the stone floor, driving me slowly, ever so slowly, into insanity. Why, why, why? But it’s too late.

She is gone, forever gone from me. If only she had not loved me then I could have born it. If she had never been kind to me, or shown any care toward me, then I would not miss her so. But now all I see is her face, kind and sweet, like a brook that ripples quietly by; her tiny little mouth that could break into the widest and most beautiful smiles; her black hair cascading gracefully down over her shoulders, its velvet sheen a rich frame for the creamy white of her skin. And her eyes – they were blue, as bright and clear as the summer sky. Oh, blue, blue, so wonderfully blue that every time I saw her I gazed deep into her eyes and could not look away. She loved me. I knew that; I could see it in her eyes. When she smiled, I had no need of heaven, and if she ever frowned I knew that I would prefer hell, but for the one thing, that even when she was angry her eyes were still the most beautiful in the world. Nothing could separate us, nothing but the jealousy of The Three.

This is our freedom; this is the Republic. At least we’re safe, that’s what they say. Safe! Am I safe? Is she safe? Tell me that. You can’t can you? She is with Him because he wanted her. I am here because I loved her. Oh, she is very safe…for that matter so am I. Nothing can reach me, except these rats. I’m safe all right, safe until they take me across the bridge. And then I’ll be safe too, for who would dare to harm me? Yes, I begin to see it. I will be safe, all the way up the scaffold, until they tie the noose around my neck. Then I’ll drop safely into space, kicking safely at our safe air, as I yank frantically at the rope, that assurance and sign of my eternal safety. And at last I will die, and then I will be safe forever. Ah yes, this is the great safety of our Republic.

Oh! Have you ever felt it, have you ever known what it’s like to have someone care so much about you, to hold on to her and know that all is right because she is there, and she always will be? Have you? No you haven’t. You can’t know how it feels until it’s gone. You can’t understand what it is to love and be loved until the one person dearer to you than anything on this earth, dearer than life itself, is ripped from your arms and dragged away while you watch, helpless. Have you ever heard her cry out that she loved you as the hands of her captors cut her words off like a sharp knife? Have you seen her eyes, those beautiful eyes, locked with yours in love for that last eternal moment before she disappears forever? When you have done all this, then you can come crawling to me with your words of safety. And you can tell me how much better I have it, now that I must die for my love, because The Three care for our safety. Then I will listen as you say that love and freedom are false happiness, and that the only true joy can be found in complying with what The Three say is best. Oh go your way, and may it be to the devil for all I care. You have never lived, never loved as I have loved. You have never suffered as I have suffered. Go your way and don’t insult me with your words of safety. Yes, go to the devil and tell him that it is best for men to lose all they hold dear at the hands of those great guardians of our safety, The Three. Surely he will nod his head wisely and say that you have learned well. And he will show you your appointed place, and when you ask what your sin is he will tell you that your sin is that of a man who mocked the innocent suffering of his brothers. Then he will laugh and tell you to bear your tortures in safety, for you shall never need fear death again.

Soon they will come for me and lead me across the bridge. They may be coming now. Yes! I hear footsteps in the hall. They are coming. At least it will be finished. No more memories, no more pain, no more of these visions that torment me out of my mind, nothing but darkness.

Oh my God, avenge me. Avenge me and let them reap the horror of their wicked ways. May they live and die as tormented in mind as I am now. Oh God! I see her before me now. Punish them for her sake. Avenge her Lord. Oh! her face, her eyes. She is crying. I can’t comfort her, I can’t reach her. Oh my sweet dear, hear me. I love you. With every fiber of my being I love you. Do not forget me, even when I am gone do not forget me. Oh God, avenge me!

They are coming; they are here at the door. I hear the key in the lock. I can see the bridge and hear the murmur of the canals. It’s over…over…

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Poetic Interlude Number III

This is my apology for not having a story to post. You see, my laptop has the death and is refusing to even start up, so I can't even pull files off of it onto something else. It is generally a horrible situation. I'm hoping it will magically start working again, at least for a short while, but either way it looks like I need to do some shopping for a new computer. I'm still working on two or three ideas. I might even try writing some by hand when I'm at home. We'll see.

An Apology

An apology in verse
Short and sweet and terse
I'll return with more to say
Of one who dug a grave
For those he loved so dear
And of a boy in fear
Lest his mother, in a whirl
Should dress him as a girl

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The King's Prerogative

[My current writing project is in the non-fiction realm: a column for the diocesan newspaper. Once I finish that, I will return to posting new fiction. I got an idea today that I think will be good.]

Honor and modesty are ornaments of the soul without which the body, beautiful though it be, should not be so esteemed. – Don Quixote

The newly crowned king of the land strutted confidently – almost arrogantly – down the aisle toward his throne. Yesterday had been the coronation; today he would choose a bride, and two days later they would be married. His mother would bless them, and they would be king and queen.

“This is the good life,” he thought to himself as he settled into the throne to await the beginning of the ceremony. No thoughts of his father clouded his mind, because his father was still alive and well. No man ever died king, unless he died in battle. The new king’s father was old, older than most were when they handed the crown to their son, but he was healthy. Still, the king had felt it was time to hand the kingdom over to his successor, and so yesterday the old man had taken the crown from his own head and placed it on that of his only son. The king had looked him in the eye and said, “The responsibility is now yours. Do you undertake to serve your God, your country, and your family?”

The young man had replied, “I do.”

“Then I place into your hands the welfare of the people, the safety of the land, and the care of your parents and sister. May the weight of the crown never be a burden to you. May it serve as a reminder of the cares you will face in this life, and may its glory be your glory.”

The old man had then turned toward the court and announced in his strong voice, “People, your king!”

Yes, that had been a fine day, when his father had entrusted him with the responsibility of a man, and a king.

Today the ceremonies would continue with the selection of the new queen, who would then be allowed one day and two nights to take leave of her family and prepare for the wedding.

The young king looked around him at the faces in his court. Some were old – the faces of his father’s friends who would now serve to moderate his youthful passions. Others were no older than he. They were the friends that he had grown up with and that he trusted.

A herald approached to announce the beginning of the day’s ceremonies.
“My king, I present to you – in all the fullness of their natural beauty – the fifty maidens deemed most worthy of your choice, both in character and personal beauty.”

The king’s stomach tightened with anticipation as he spoke. “Maidens,” his voice thundered through the hall, “approach, that you may be judged.”

The monstrous doors swung wide and the girls began to step slowly into the hall and down the aisle toward the king. They were, indeed, in the full state of their natural beauty, for not a single one of them wore a shred of cloth to hide herself from his eyes. The king sucked in his breath at the sight. As the girls reached the end of the aisle they spread out in a horizontal line before him, their heads held level, their eyes averted but not fixed on the floor. Their hands hung close to their sides without giving any impression of awkwardness.

The king allowed his eyes to scan from one end of the row to the other as the girls continued to file in. There was a slight commotion in the back of the hall and the king looked up to see the last girl in the procession marching down the aisle. She was fully clothed in a simple but elegant cream colored dress that formed a stunning contrast with her thick black tresses. The king was shocked.
“Do you dare to ignore the law of your land? You were selected to appear before your king, and you have the impudence to defy all laws and traditions? Speak, but speak wisely, for such defiance is no light matter, and your life may depend on your words or my whim.”

The girl curtsied so low the king thought she must lose her balance. “Majesty,” she began, “do you not have a sister?”

“Yes, what of it!” he snapped.

“Majesty,” she tried to look calm, but her shaking hands betrayed her fear, “do you allow your sister to parade herself around in public?”

“Certainly not.”

“Majesty, may I ask why not?”

“You have no right to ask such a question. I do not need to justify myself.”

She continued, “Of course, Majesty, but would you allow your daughter, if you had one, to parade around in such a way?”

“My girl, I most certainly would not. Such behavior would be a disgrace upon the royal family.”

“Is it not a disgrace for the future queen to be seen in such circumstances?”

“Eh?” he finally began to see some sense in what she was saying, but he held his ground. “Sister, I certainly have no wish to disgrace my wife; however, I must be allowed to make an informed decision. This is what the law provides for. Would you buy food without first examining it for flaws?”

“Majesty, you called me sister just now,” she whispered.

“Eh? So I did,” he caught her drift. “The title is an arbitrary one. You are no blood relation of mine.”

The girl kept her voice steady. “Majesty, of course I examine food before I buy it, but the food has no shame to be concerned over. Would you insinuate that we are but pieces of fruit and bread?” She was stepping further onto the ice and she new it. “I did not ask to be selected to appear before you…”

The king interrupted her with a glare, snapping, “Do you mean to imply that you are not honored to be here? The idea is a disgrace to yourself and your family. My patience wears thin…maid,” he uttered the last word with a hint of disgust.

She dropped her eyes and her voice softened with humility. “I did not mean that, Majesty. I am honored beyond what you can imagine to have been chosen to appear before you, but remember that I, too, am a sister and a daughter. I cannot put my father and brother to shame anymore than you could let your sister or daughter do what you ask me to do. That it is the law does not make it right.”

“My dear, you have no choice. This is my prerogative.” As he said this, though, his heart began to tighten inside him. He admired the girl’s courage and modesty, even more than he admired the haunting eyes and slender figure. He could not make up his mind. The law clearly stated the procedures for how the king was to choose his bride, but he was finding it difficult to think about what was prescribed for those who defied the law.

“Majesty, the beauty of the soul far outweighs the form of the body. My honor I cannot compromise. What the king would not allow, he should not require.”

“Those are bold words, my dear. You do understand that you could be hanged for them, do you not?”

“Majesty, I have appeared before you that you may judge my beauty. Look upon me. Does beauty require the absence of modesty?” She lifted her head and looked straight into his eyes.

The king had been looking at her – all thoughts of the other forty-nine beauties had left his mind. He was intrigued by this girl, and he found himself becoming more and more attached to her spirit. Those eyes…they were…captivating. That was the only word for them.

“Majesty,” the girl said, “if I must be hung for my act, then I must be hung, but I refuse to compromise my honor and shame my family. If you are not pleased with what you see, I beg you to let me return home unharmed, if only because my helplessness touches your heart. If, on the other hand, you are pleased with me, I would be willing and honored to be your wife.”

The king marveled at her words. Never had he heard a girl speak so firmly in his presence. He scanned down the row one more time, but his eyes kept returning to that cream colored dress that stood before him. Her head was bent now and he could no longer see her eyes, but their image was still burning in his mind.

“Guards…” he said, almost musing aloud.

The guards stood ready and the girls visibly tensed.

“Guards, I have made my decision.” He paused. “Escort these others back to their chambers. This one,” he indicated the girl who stood humbly before him, hands clasped loosely over the front of her dress, “let her return to her family, that she may prepare herself for the wedding day.”

The girl lifted her head a little and blushed scarlet, but her face broke into a subdued smile.

“My dear, what is your name?” the king asked.

“Starla, Majesty,” she replied.

“Starla,” he whispered, “Starla with eyes like the stars. Very well, Starla, go – prepare yourself. Your courage and beauty have served you well. Two days hence you will become my bride.”

Starla curtsied and turned to go.

The king watched her as she left, fascinated. Those eyes, he could not get them out of his head. They were so blue, almost violet. Well, being a king wasn’t exactly what he had expected, at least not so far, but he had a feeling that this was a good start. What a girl she was. She would make a good wife, a good mother, and a good queen.

A thought tugged at the back of his mind. Was he right to disregard the law? Well, why not? After all, that was the king’s prerogative.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Self Portrait

Alone, the writer stares out the window. The ceiling fan hums overhead, stirring the first warm air of spring into a soothing caress. Images play across the television screen, colors bouncing, flowing, the sunset tones bleeding off into the distance. He pays little attention to the words coming from the cd player. Opera is hard enough to understand in English. He picks out snippets of the German, but focuses on the music behind it, music befitting the season, even if it is not yet Good Friday.

He scrambles around the corners of his mind, searching for ideas. They are there, little slips of paper, some of them long forgotten, some he told himself long ago that he would write, but never did. A few he crumples up and tosses towards the wastebasket. They miss. Baseball season is almost here. He should work on his aim, if only on principle.

With a pile of good ideas at hand he sits down and begins to sort them. One is too personal; it feels too much like violating a trust. Another, just as personal, would work if he turned it into a novel and really fleshed out the characters. Then they could come alive as someone other than their inspiration. Then the personal would work, for it would lie hidden behind a mask.

Novels aren't written in a night, though. And there is no plot yet, just a cast - a cast of sinners in need of redemption. That is the beauty of writing - if one works hard enough, one can redeem the world. Not so in this life.

"Mein Gott, mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen?"

Aber Sie varlassen mich nicht...

Bock - it means strength. Strength beer. Perhaps one could say it is beer for strength. All beer is for strength. "I drank sixteen bottles for the price of one, trying to find the courage to talk to the one..." Bock is certainly an early spring beer - rich, creamy, but hinting at the freshness to come. The smell of cigarettes on a cool rainy day, and the whisper of new leaves on a warm April afternoon - all these are tied up in the beer, if one tastes carefully enough. Or maybe it's the glass... real German glass, that - birthday present from a friend.

One friend has provided the poor writer with a wealth of ideas, but none of them are working right now. The love is not there, and without love one cannot create. These, too, are discarded for the time.

Something longer must come soon, something with action and suspense, something with wit and polish, something that cannot be written in a night. The others, though, they must not be forgotten, those little snapshots of joy, and sometimes of sorrow, but oh how to write them! Snapshots are a photographer's business.

He needs new inspiration, something like the story of Benedict and Scholastica, something to smack him in the face and say, "Write me!" It will come. Writer's block is not forever. The stories will come; they must.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Poetic Interlude Number II

Sorry for not posting last week. I've been having minor writer's block, primarily due to spending all my free time watching Arrested Development with my roommate. But we finished it last night, so I should be back on track next week. Hope you enjoy the seamonsters. Until then, here's a little mood music for ya.

In a bar down the street
There's a lass you should meet
With her hair tied back
Red ribbons on black
Her hand's never shaky
A smooth pour she'll make ye
And ye'll never wait
When your maid's bonnie Kate

Oh bonnie Kate, another round
We'll drink the night away and drown
Our sorrows and our joys as well
With a pint of Guinness in our hands
We'll take our fall and never stand
And laugh at the devil in hell

She'll never twist your arm
Just use her Irish charm
And soon you're drinkin' more
Than you ever have before
To prove to all your friends
That you'll win her in the end
But she's better than ye, lad
Though ye think ye aren't half bad

Oh bonnie Kate another round
We'll drink the night away and drown
Our sorrows and our joys as well
Oh bonnie Kate, our lovely lass
Pour yourself a pretty glass
And laugh with us at the devil in hell

Sure it's all you can think
Not to think but to drink
She said any man
Must drink two times ten
Just for half a chance
To get in her pants
But hold onto your shirt
'Cause, lad, she wears a skirt

Oh bonnie Kate another round
We'll drink the night away and drown
Our sorrows and our joys as well
And slap that silly lad right there
We know your bed you'll never share
Until you've heard that wedding bell

So bonnie Kate come laugh with us
And drink a final pint with us
And share our times both good and bad
So she flashed a wink and poured a round
And we'll drink one more together now
Our bonnie Kate and her brave lads

Scotch and Seamonsters

Alone, he sat on the sand and watched the sun hover above the tiny ripples on the lake. Nearby a bird sang an evening song, thanking his maker for a beautiful day and longing for a companion with whom he could share this charming view. At least, the man on the sand thought that was what the bird wanted. The solitary warbling, with never a response, was haunting and lonely.

His fingers found a rock buried in the sand, worn smooth by the beatings of time. Digging the rock free, he reached back and hurled it toward the water, smiling as it skipped out over the waves. Behind him his friend stopped singing.

“Don’t stop now, Sam. You’re all the company I got until Katy shows up… if she shows up…” his voice trailed off. Sam must have heard him, for he began to whistle a new song, another mournful tale of solitude and woe. The man wondered if birds ever felt sad or lonely or happy. Probably not, he decided.
Something caught his eye in the distance and he spoke to Sam. “Here she comes, sing her in softly now, don’t scare her away.” Sam ignored him and continued singing just as loud as before. Together they watched as the thing grew closer, rising and falling gracefully in the water, outlined against the setting sun, and then disappearing again.

“Katy…” he whispered. He couldn’t remember why he’d settled on that name. Katy was a pretty name, and as good as any for her. Sam kept on singing, his voice rising in pitch, wailing about some lost love, one that likely had never been.
Katy was majestic, gliding through the waves, now and again leaping into the air, sailing, twisting, seeming to fly and then slapping down back into the waves. A monster she surely was, but he had known fine, highbrow ladies with less grace and fewer manners than this creature. She seemed perfectly satisfied, rejoicing in the beauty of life, of the evening sun and the chilly water of the lake.
In awe the man watched. Even Sam, who rarely thought of anything but his romantic endeavors, changed his song, weaving the notes in with Katy’s dance, rising and falling, swelling his chest with pride in the knowledge that he alone could accompany the display.

The dance and song continued for a time and the man leaned back on his elbows, smiling as every care seemed to melt in the beauty of the moment. At last, Katy disappeared under the water. She did not resurface for a time. Sam stopped singing, and the man popped the cork from his bottle of Scotch and held it up to the fiery horizon. “Goodnight, my bonny lass.” He took a drink, sighed, replaced the cork, and stood up to leave. Then, a short way out, where the water was deeper, she burst from the water, shooting into the air to a height he would not have thought possible. Spreading what looked to be wings she twisted in the air, curled over like a monstrous dolphin, and plunged back into the depths.
Unconsciously he uncorked the bottle again and, taking a couple more pulls, muttered the word “impossible.” He stood there, staring into the fading light. Sam tried to sing, but even he was too astounded. Well, once one accepts sea-monsters, is anything really impossible?

“Good night, Sam,” he said, and the bird lurched into a sorrowful tale filled with black nights and empty hearts as the man turned his steps homeward, away from the beach, away from his friends, to return to a cold, empty bed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Blouse

Inside the convent walls, Maggie Anne struggled to fight back the tears. They were silly tears, she told herself - the tears of a foolish little girl. In her hands she held a ruined blouse, the delicate fabric burned through in one place by the clumsy application of an iron.

Mother Mary Joan tried to console her. "Now here," she said, "this is nothing to cry over." She knew, of course, that the girl was not really crying about a ruined shirt. A year earlier Maggie Anne had given away everything to enter religious life. She had been so certain. Now she was afraid - more afraid, probably, than she had been upon entering the convent. For now, Maggie Anne was going back into the world, back to walk the earth, back (though she did not yet know it) to be a mother to two priests and a sister, and a grandmother to many more. She did not know any of this; she only knew that she did not belong in the convent, and that the one piece of clothing she had to wear out into the world was now ruined.

The Mother Superior placed a hand upon her shoulder. "Wait here," she said.

Maggie Anne turned her eyes to the crucifix that hung upon the wall; she felt a brief sting of reproach, and then a calm. The year had been a painful one. She loved the sisters and the life she led, but she was not happy. Through much agony and prayer, and with the gentle guidance of her spiritual director and Mother Mary Joan, she had come to realize that the convent was not her calling. She loved the sisters dearly, and was loath to leave, yet here she was, with a plain brown skirt and a ruined blouse, wondering where to go.

She felt like a child, frightened of the world beyond the walls. She knew not where she would go, or what she would do. If she was to be married,  she knew not how it would come about.

"Oh, what am I getting myself into," she whispered. "Oh God, what are you doing to me?"

She looked at the crucifix - again that calm, and a voice in her heart. "Beckoning you."

Silently, she prayed, "If you will embrace me, I will not fear. If you will carry me, I will walk."

She looked down at her ruined blouse. "The last thing I owned in the world, and I have ruined it... I have nothing left." As she said that, she began to understand. She felt foolish; she ought to have known, ought to have understood why He let her forget what she was doing, why He let her hand linger too long in one place. The tears of frustration that she had been fighting began to trail slowly down her face, turning to peace as they dripped onto the pile of linen clutched in her hands.

Soon, Mother Mary Joan returned. With her was another of the sisters, carrying a large pink sweatshirt with a picture of Winnie the Pooh. Each of the sisters was allowed one outfit for bed. Sister Mary Monica had kept this.

The shy one, the quietest of all the sisters, and not so old herself, handed the sweatshirt to Maggie Anne. "I will sleep in my habit," she said simply.

Peace became gratitude and continued to spill from the eyes of the one time postulant. She embraced the sister.

"It is not much," she protested.

Maggie Anne placed her hands on the sister's shoulders and smiled. "No," she said, "it is everything."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Poetic Interlude

With a nod to John, I give you a foray into poetry. I have also a story in the works; I shall post it soon.

Turn about; check behind
Try not to rewind
Forward in your mind
Looking for a sign

Catch me grinning; faces sallow
Fingers dipped in tallow
Burning till I'm hollow
Learn to lead and follow

Doors unopened; broken windows
Moonlight o'er the meadow
The red of glowing cinders
Light enough to wander

Burning man, whence art thou
Whither the wind, the howl
Lone night wolf, alone you prowl
And alone you take your bow

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Brother and Sister

UPDATED: 02/12/10 

A rush of cold air whistled by as the pub door opened. A few bachelors were lined up at the bar, drinking the death of Cupid on this lonely Sunday night, St. Valentine's day. Other than that, the place was empty.

Out of the wind and the cold came a pair that drew a stare from three or four, while the others, those with better manners, studied their pints intently. One of the gawkers made a lewd comment to the young woman, who blushed and turned her eyes to the ground. The jester's neighbor and erstwhile drinking buddy instantly backhanded him across the mouth, grabbed him by the collar, and hauled him toward the door.

"Wait, I ain't finished with my drink yet," protested the jester.

"I'll finish it for you," said the other.

"But I ain't paid!"

"I'll pay for you."

The chastising party yanked open the door and kicked the jester into the cold, sending him stumbling into a snow drift.

Back at the bar the man and woman were praying without words. The bartender nodded toward the door. "Sorry about him," he said, and, turning to the man who was returning to his stool, he added, "Thanks, Jack."

Jack nodded, "Wasn't right, what he said. I'm sorry for it, Sister." He gave her a slight bow and then returned to his pint.

The bartender looked the pair up and down, thoughtfully. "You're Charlie's kids aren't you? There aren't many who'd come in here wearing a cassock and a habit."

The brother and sister, for so they were, nodded.

"I'm sorry to hear about your father," said the bartender. "He was a good man."

"Thank you," said the priest.

"Can I get you a drink? You look like you could use it."

"Guinness for me. Sis?" he turned to the girl at his side.

"Cider, please."

The bartender poured a cider for the young nun. Then, he handed the priest his pint and waved away the proffered money. "No, not tonight. You just let me know if you need anything; I'll be here listening to these fools grumble about Valentines Day."

"Ah, I had forgotten that. To St. Valentine," the priest said, raising his glass.

The bartender poured himself a quick shot. "To Charlie Bantam," he said.

The brother and sister, or Father and Sister, touched their glasses, and then headed toward the end of the bar. The bartender, Patrick was his name, watched them thoughtfully. They were a strange pair, these two. They could almost have been father and daughter, for, though his boyish face belied the forty-five years that had passed for Charlie Bantam's eldest son, he was nearly eighteen years older than his sister, the baby of the family.

They spoke softly, torn between the joy of seeing one another for the first time in nearly two years and the sorrow of the occasion. They shared their stories, he of the parish life and she of the convent, of the people, the sinners and saints, the innocent and the broken. With few words they spoke; words carried the stories, but the love behind the stories spoke more deeply then the sounds of tongue and lips and teeth ever could.

Occasionally Patrick would refill the priest's glass, while the young Dominican nursed her cider throughout the night.

The night waned and the bar slowly emptied, until only the two young saints and the bartender remained. The young nun was laughing at something her brother had said. Suddenly she froze, staring straight ahead at her brother, who at first tried to jar her back, thinking she was merely tired. Then, he began to wonder and worry about her. She continued to stare at him, into him, beyond him.

Without warning, she began to weep, throwing her arms around her brother. "Oh," she sobbed, "Father is gone, and soon I shall lose you as well!"

Stunned, he patted her head, just as he had all those years ago, when she was still a child and he a seminarian visiting home. "What is this?" he asked. "You are not going to lose me."

"Yes, yes I am... I know it."

He contemplated that for a time. "Even if... even if it is so..." a lump formed in his throat. Perhaps she was right. He knew life's unpredictability; he knew she might be right, whether God Himself had told her, he did not know. She continued to weep into his cassock sleeve.

"I know," she said, wiping her eyes, "I know I must trust." She put on a brave face, but her lip trembled and her eyes glistened.

"We must all," said he.

"But it is so difficult."

"It is another cross," he said.

"That is too easy to say."

"I know; that does not change the truth." He took her by the hands, facing her. "If what you say is so, then you must pray for me."

"Oh don't be foolish," she smiled a little. "You shall skip right on past purgatory, I just know it."

He grinned, "I doubt that very much. You must pray. And in turn I will do the same."

She nodded, but he could see the tears welling up again. He, who knew so well the humanity the lay behind his own cassock, knew also that beneath the habit was his little sister, the same girl he'd always known.

"Come," he said, "let's go back to our brothers and sisters. They shall need us tomorrow."

To the bartender he said, "Thanks, Patrick. Have a good night."

Patrick just nodded. "God bless," he said.

As they left the bar, the priest clasped his sister's hand. The wind howled and beat at them in the night beyond the shelter of the building. Turning their eyes to heaven they prayed with the words of the heart, and they walked into the night.

St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, pray for us.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jitterbug and Firelight

I hadn't really wanted to go. I'd seen them only six months before and, friends though we are, I didn't see why they'd want me there on New Year's Eve. They had family and friends; there was no need for me to make the trip. Besides, for the first time since getting a full time job I was broke at the end of the month. The Christmas season does that.

My brother talked me into it, so whatever happened was his fault. Mostly there were fireworks, the good ones that you can't buy in Georgia. And there was football on the beach. I'm not the world's biggest fan of country music, but something about driving down a country road in southern Alabama, in an SUV so packed that Holly Anne had to ride in back with the dog, windows down and the wind ripping at our faces, with the country music blasting loud and homey, it all felt right.

You'd think playing football on the beach on the last day of the year would be amazing. You'd be right; it was. The sand sucked at our feet and turned a friendly game into a lot of work. Hot and exhausted we stumbled back to the towels, where Mrs. P snapped a few pictures to commemorate the grand occasion. Or maybe she just likes cameras; I think there's something about that extra x chromosome.

Exhausted but happy we crowded into the Suburban and headed back to the house. After a shower we drove to campus for the vigil Mass of the feast of Mary Mother of God. On the way back to the house we stopped at Jake's Place to get gas and beer and then across the street for fireworks.

The girls had a cousin visiting from Wyoming. Sadly, the cousin was not a girl. He did teach us to jitterbug, at least the way they do in Wyoming. And so, with a bonfire burning back near the horse barn, we stopped in between fireworks and beer pong for a dance in the driveway.

It wasn't a perfect New Year's Eve; the champagne toast was a little rushed, the glasses were plastic, and despite my best wishing, no one else remembered the words to Auld Lang Syne, no one except my brother and I. Maybe they just weren't in a singing mood. I didn't mind. More dancing and a few drinks later, I walked back from the still glowing fire, and after one of the best New Year's Eves ever, I fell into bed exhausted, a little sad that I couldn't get up and do it all again in the morning. Never mind that; I'm glad I went.

Monday, February 1, 2010

In Which the Author Announces His Intentions

The purpose of this blog is to be a repository for my stories, both new and old. It is inspired by Requiem for Innocence, an excellent poetry blog. I don't expect I will be updating every day, but I hope to post at least once a week with a story, either new or old. The tales will be mixed, some of them personal experiences that I found particularly worth recounting, some of them old and new short fiction, and the majority will be recountings of things I have heard from friends - stories that have struck the artistic soul inside me. I hope to take small instances in our lives and show the beauty of life, in all of its wonderful strangeness. From the cradle to the cross, we live our lives, fighting each day, finding joy and pain along the path. I hope that my stories may mean something, if only to those who inspired them.