Tuesday, December 20


You push out of bed like a backstroke,
surfacing into the morning light,
leaving me behind. There must be
a word for that shift, instinctive
in that moment right before you pull away:

I press closer, rub my face into
your shoulder-skin, asleep to the realities
of all our deleterious nights,
breath serene as if I might never wake,
arms tight around you. You break

my hold, push a pillow into my arms
as if it could replace you. I remember
the days I could swim back down into sleep
after you left, listening to the bell
sounding dour in all those grey mornings.

We cannot go back into the wide space
between night and white dawn. We can travel
only in the direction of endings, and never again
savor the taste of beginning. I am weightless
in my dream-sea under heavy blankets

and even when you are here,
I can see you are already gone.

Wednesday, December 14



The koi swims upstream, against any current, any opposition. It is the sign of perseverance, much like a salmon. One that has never known the fear of a shaggy-pawed predator. It is also "koi," "beloved," just as we say to each other in the foggy mornings, embroidering on our eyebrows and drawing in our lips before we face the dawn.

We paint each carp in moonglow and scarlet petals, copper and gold and inky black. They shine in the sunlight like articulated jewels.

At sunset, we set them in the pond and release the fireflies. Moonfish and sunfish and autumn-leaf-fish circle turn and turn about, gape-grinning at our hands, slender hands entwined and resting upon the curve of the red-lacquered bridge. We drop cakes and rice wine into their friendly mouths.

"Ochiba, my heart," she says to me, "in the cold night let us swim together for warmth."

"Hanako, my pulse," I reply, "apocalypses could not keep us from touching."

We return to the workshop, hand in hand, where we will dine upon green peas and watermelon. We will drink scalding tea, the color of our pond, that tastes of endless summer. Tonight we await the rising of the moon, full and lovely, an enormous silver carp swimming in the black waters of the sky.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Carrie challenged me with "big fish in a small pond" and I challenged Sir with "Cor Serpentis."

The exchange of short poems between lovers is a well-documented obsession of mine. Go back and count the syllables. Yes, those are haiku. Yes, I tried to write them in Japanese first, though I'm more certain of Hanako's line than Ochiba's. Yes, I am a little crazy.


Friday, December 9


What can I tell him about this place?
I have seen bright finches eating peaches
left hanging on a ragged tree. Persimmons
and thyme-scented lemons throw themselves
into my waiting hand.

I could live on rice and jasmine tea, the
scent of pepper floating out of the trees,
the shadows of autumns past still lingering
in concrete under my path.

But here there are no camellias,
shy flowers peeking from behind glossy leaves,
no cemetery incense or old tatami,
no sutras or silken banners tucked away
in ageless forest, no temple open to retreat.

Tonight the moon is a paper lantern
about to burst into flame, hanging low
in a blushing sky, tipping all the red leaves
in gleaming gold, the present as elusive
as the past,

and I can never capture silver-scaled truth
with the nets I weave of troublesome words.

Thursday, December 8


Once, I rose dripping
from a bath, and in drying,
my hand descended
from the nape of my neck
into the deepest cut,

right along the shoulder-line.

I touched all those pieces
that grind on each other
carefully, the wet tongue velvet
of the insides of our skin

lapped up against oily layers
and ragged edges, pushed into 
dark places, prodded at wads of 
linen and kerosene-soaked tinder,

my interior landscape primed
for a resurgence,
poised to burn.

Wednesday, December 7

Eightfold Path

There are too many people in this world. People everywhere, cars spewing out a thick coat of invisible poison, factories and furnaces, killing the skin of the world we inhabit. They're everywhere, hemming us in on all sides with squalling infants and trash and terrible little clouds of germs. Particles. Maybe spores. You never can tell.

It's mostly the noise, the clashing and creaking, the wails and grunting that play marimba on my spine. I creep around in my apartment because, upstairs, the man who plays bass in some terrible cover band never takes off his shoes. I hear him thumping around every hour of the day. It doesn't bother me as much now that I don't sleep.

I hear voices through the walls, whispers and murmurs of people who might be alive or dead or somewhere in between. I never see my neighbors if I can help it. Everything I need can be delivered, except the gun. I had to buy that from a wizened little man in a bad part of town. His eyes were shark-cold and black, blacker than the hole in the muzzle of my new handgun. He never asked why I wanted such a thing, of course. I imagine someone in that line of work would rather not know his customers too well.

There are footsteps outside my door again, people running up and down the stairs. I think they tread as heavily as they can on purpose, hooting like monkeys who have finally discovered acoustics. There are people everywhere.

Before, I practiced avoiding notice. I tried as hard as I could to become invisible. I think it's worked; cabs don't stop for me, but then again, in this city it would be more of a surprise if I managed to catch one. At night I meditate instead of sleeping, holding a full clip in my loosely cupped hands, waiting to look into the void of empty mind. Without desire, I can achieve anything. The trick in that, though, is that I long to accomplish something great. I have not reconciled these emotions, and I will not reach nirvana in this way. Of course, I can't believe I will reach nirvana with all this noise around me.

Sometimes, in the holy hush of three in the morning, I walk down to the river and watch the lights in the water. Sometimes, yes, even then, there are people in my way. The people in my way at such an hour are never, ever missed.

I wish everyone would disappear, everyone in this city, leave me alone and let me meditate under the wide window, open to the sky. I would never become a bodhisattva and that is okay. Let them all vanish into smoke and dust and ash like the girls in the incinerator.

I could go out into the world and sit under a tree until another homeless man stands too close to me, offering drugs and requesting things I don't have to give. I could walk to the park, if another thoughtless young woman with a stroller too wide for the sidewalk wouldn't simply shove me aside with its nearly-armored sides. I am running out of places to put the loud, the rude, the hapless, and the damned.

I will stay in here with the candles and the bits of unburned bone until I hear silence out there, or until another knock on my door signals the loss of my invisibility. Or I will go out and remove another piece of trash from my city, one bullet at a time, one more splinter of annoyance pulled from under the nailbed of my soul.

The incinerator is the only quiet thing in this building. Sometimes I go into the dark and lie in front of its iron mouth, whispering sutras into its heat. Sometimes I see the faces in the fire and I am so grateful they are silenced forever. Sometimes when I blow out the candles on my windowsill, I make a wish, but then I remember that desire is the enemy. Is a wish the same as desire?

I cannot escape the prayer for silence, the great and sacred responsibility that has been laid upon me. I wished to be of use, I wished to remove obstacles from my destiny. I wished to live in an empty place, for an empty mind, for the peace of perfect enlightenment. If I could just quiet the voices, I could get there, but people are everywhere. So, one person at a time, I strive. When all is silent I will reach again for the truth, set out upon the eightfold path that promises detachment from these earthly desires.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Tobie challenged me with "Make a wish and blow out the candles." and I challenged Wintervixen86 with "Pierrot and Columbine".

Saturday, December 3

Things We Never Said Out Loud

Dig my way down, I dig, one hand over the other. Like a baseball bat. Let's not talk about the baseball bat, though, let's leave that for last. Oh, love, let me lull you to sleep with my songs. Sit here with your head upon my knee and see the stories I spin for you, always for you and your silent stone heart. Shovels are uncomplicated things, thrust them in and let them do their work, one hand over the other and a growing pile of dust, of dirt, of mud and clay. I could almost sing to you while I work, almost, if you were listening, send you a message that meant more than this.

I never bought that plastic tarp. We laughed about it, oh yes, how we laughed. It's funny until it happens to you, and then you regret all the quicklime and chainsaw jokes. Or so I'd suppose.

Who knows? Not me, I am so quiet and kind. I make toys for the children in my spare time, trains on tracks and racks of gently smiling dolls. Never mind the noises from the basement. Hammer and nails, lashes and tongs, bits of chain and leather thongs. Tools of the trade, you might say.

I don't know why you left or where you went. It was always for you, the weight of the sledgehammer handle socketed firmly into my fist, the scissors and the baseball bat, the broken glasses, the plates. I've waited beside you, oh, waited, wondering why you closed your eyes that night and never came back. Now I can hear your dresses decay in the dark and drop dust-bunnies onto the closet floor.

I have missed you less, before; but this is a joke. I never miss. One last kiss, and into the dark you go. I'll lay you next to your beloved cat, cover you gently with your favorite quilt. Throw in the pieces of the baseball bat, and tuck you in--and that is that.

Thursday, December 1

The Albatross

"Look, kid, this is ridiculous. There are no lamps out there. It's physically impossible."

"I know what I saw, Anchormaster," the boy insisted. His ragged sailcloth leggings rustled as he shifted uncomfortably. "I know I wasn't supposed to be in the ambassador's quarters, and I'll take the lashes for that, but I am not lying. Was a man, on a cobblestone street, bold as brass, true as iron."

The anchormaster looked down at the rough-sanded planks, considering. The boy's bare, calloused feet scraped quietly as he shifted position again. "Report to the whipmistress in the morning. Five for trespassing. I will speak with her as to the rest of your sentence after I visit the ambassador. You will take the night watch on C deck and keep the whole thing quiet until I finish my investigation. Is this clear?"

The boy saluted and left hastily, perhaps afraid the anchormaster would change his mind. Punishments were not usually so lenient aboard this particular ship.

Anchormaster Lenn walked toward the foredecks, glaring at his timepiece. The ambassador was in one of her meetings for at least another hour. Plenty of time to check her quarters and make sure the boy hadn't interfered with anything important. He could even be back to his post before the Captain made her rounds. He headed into the lodging corridor, moving as quietly as he could. Too many people on this trip kept odd hours. He thought how glad he would be when this shipment was over, and of the spiced coffee he would drink when they made planetfall. It had been far too long since his last shore leave.

All his musings were cut short when he noticed the door to the ambassador's quarters hanging open. His mouth compressed in irritation and he mentally added two lashes to the boy's punishment for leaving the corridor unsecured.

Annoyed, he strode into the lodgings, less concerned now about the noise than about the potential security breach. The automatic lights shifted on, and a quick survey of the suite yielded no visible problems. He stood in the center room for a few moments, listening for any movement. When the silence remained, he headed into the receiving room, where the boy had claimed to see his latest impossibility. Two steps into the room, he froze.

There, in the port window, silhouetted against the infinitude of space, it was clear. A section of cobblestoned street, a wrought-iron streetlamp, and a man where no men should be, framed by the bulk of the planet looming over them all.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Kat challenged me with "I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw him standing under the street light..." and I challenged GUS with "Malachite and amber, mother of pearl and stars."