Tuesday, September 18


Where your mouth has touched,
I burn. Each kiss, a flaring
ember in my skin.

Thursday, September 6


I hear the day break. It cracks
just at the horizon, scarlet like yolk seeping
through the knife-edge, and I am still
twined around you.

I am heavy with sleep, tired of time.
When I wake, the night is rising around us,
the fires you stitch into my skin still building.
Where would I go, with this heat,

but into the ice-white gleam of the moon?
I dreamed of the sun in your hair, the depth of light
it must contain. I dreamed you pressed your paints
into my mouth, gilding me for the sacrifice.

My hair grows ever greyer. Soon I will be ash,
a lump of incense you must hand deliver
to Heliopolis. Soon, perhaps, I may
no longer rise in the night,

soon I may greet the day, and burn anew
with stolen knowledge,
burn that the moon misses me,
and that you never will.

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, kat gave me this prompt: "There's a sun I'm eager to see, but the moon still longs to keep me."
I gave November Rain this prompt: "'Kiss me and tell me it's not broken.'"

Thursday, August 30

Ordinary Disasters

When the moon disappeared, we were flung headlong into a story. Not one of the good ones, though. The world, wobbling drunkenly across the sky, has a new set of tales to tell.

This is the story in which the Beast tears Beauty into bloody strips and devours her whole; the story in which the Blue Fairy plays cruel jokes on innocent puppets. The one where Sleeping Beauty sleeps, forever, because without true love's kiss we are left with the thorns. They slice like knives and put out eyes and clutch in closer every year.

It wasn't a hundred years before we began to break. It wasn't even one.

Here is the story in which the crane maiden lies bleeding in the forest and no one binds up the wound in her breast. The carven wife never comes alive, the nine-tailed fox is killed, savaged by hunting dogs. Here is the part where Inanna, descending, is stripped bare to the bones and never returns. The sun sets on Hansel and Gretel in the forest, or in the oven, or in the witch's belly, breadcrumbs still stashed in the pockets of the pants that were carefully cut off and discarded in the corner before the grisly feast.

Godfather Death eats and eats and never stops to admire himself in the glass at the foot of the bed. Ella falls to blood poisoning, ashes and lye and glass shards embedded in her battered feet. There are no Seven Sisters, no Penelope, and Oz becomes a dream in the poisoned desert, the fevered ravings of an absinthe drinker.

The moving finger writes, and having written, points directly at its audience in condemnation. We cover our faces with blood-red veils. We tattoo the old inscriptions with ash and mud from the bottom of the lake. We patch up our wounds with paper, the ink mixing with our blood and tears until we are smudged the color of the hole in the sky, black and moonless and bereft. The end is not coming.

The end is already here, crouching beside us in the dark.

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Christine gave me this prompt: "Take a familiar book, story, or fairy tale, and rewrite the ending. Feel free to change the setting, time period, characters, etc., as long as the original story is recognizable." Of course, since that is kind of what I usually do, this became rather more of a challenge.

I gave SAM this prompt: "'You're nothing but a deck of cards!'"

Thursday, July 26


"Then I had to take Quill to the vet. He's been eating string again. Dr. Delaporte says there wasn't enough in his system to really mess him up, but I'm going to have to put my craft stuff on a higher shelf. At least we didn't have to send him in for surgery. Dodged a bullet, huh?" She taps her chipped fingernails against her front teeth and changes position in the uncomfortable chair. "Maybe not. Maybe Quill wants a vacation. He likes the treats there." I'd like a vacation, she mouths at him.

The faint, chemical smell of the room coats her tongue, and she takes a drink of coffee to rid her mouth of the taste. It doesn't help. Now it's chemicals and cold vending-machine coffee, drying her out. It makes her brittle.

"What's that girl's name? Simone? She stopped by again this morning. I don't know if anyone told you. I told them to be sure to tell you I took her off the visiting list. Did you mind? Just say so." Surface smiles. Black anger beneath. "Just open your eyes and tell me, David. Tell me you want them to let in your whore." She leans forward, the cold metal of the chair's arms digging into her wet palms. "I should have left you where I found you, you coward."

She isn't expecting an answer. Sometimes in dreams, when she says this, there's a reaction. His eyes open, and they're dark, they're rotting in his face, his tongue decayed into grey mash. His skin peels away from the bones of his face, stubborn strips of fat clinging like cobwebs. But here, the respirator churns and pushes, the low beeps and murmurs of his assorted machinery continue to fill the silence.

"I'm taking Quill to the beach this summer." She settles back into the chair, looks at her ruined manicure, considers relenting. They've assured her repeatedly that there is no way David can understand what she says, only that she is there and speaking. So he can hear me? He is in there, listening, right? Her voice trembling, the perfect shine of wifely concern lingering in her eyes, she asked them over and over again, can't I talk to him? Can't he hear? Carefully faked breakdown after breakdown, waiting with head bowed to listen to the nurses around the corner, whispering about devotion.

Devotion. Sure. "I'm taking Quill," she says again. "I'm taking your dog to the beach, David, and I'm going to bury him up to his head at high tide. And if he tries to get away, I'll break his legs first." She lowers her voice when she catches the squeaking of the night nurse's rubber-soled shoes in the hall, leans in again to stroke his wasted face.

She stands and grabs her purse from the nightstand. "It's the least I can do, darling. I'll see you next Monday."

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Barb Black prompted me with "I guess we managed to dodge the bullet that time..." and I gave SAM this prompt: "Odin sacrificed himself to himself, and gave us eighteen runes and seventeen known charms or magical songs. He also learned an eighteenth, a secret song. Please write it down for us, weave it into a tale, or describe it and its effects."

Thursday, July 12

Grad School: A Horror Story

"Back," I cried, popping the whip from behind the wooden chair. The lion paid me no attention, shaking its ratty locks and yawning. The wave of his fishy breath would have knocked me over, had I not ducked behind the chair again.

Suddenly, the television behind me switched itself on. Good lord, I thought, I haven't seen this movie in over a decade! I dropped the whip and sat down on my chair. It was rather more comfortable than it looked. The lion called from the kitchen, "Do you want some popcorn?"

Then a commercial came on, and I decided to get to work--for real, this time. I booted the laptop and fired up the word processor, but to my horror, every icon I clicked brought up a new browser window. Tumblr kept updating, and I became Twitter famous. Then the lion's friends all wanted to become friends with me on Facebook, and they all wanted me to help them meet goals in those annoying browser games.

Luckily, my phone rang at that very instant. It was my best friend from college, calling to tell me all about her life as a stay-at-home mom of four. I put her on speakerphone and poured myself a stiff drink. The next thing I knew, it was four a.m. and the lion was dragging me gently to bed.

And that, my friends, is why I did not complete my section of our group assignment. Now, who's ready for Margarita Monday?

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Michael gave me this prompt: ​"The history of my life is the history of the struggle between an overwhelming urge to write and a combination of circumstances bent on keeping me from it." -F.Scott Fitzgerald. I gave Jester Queen this prompt: Malaise.

Wednesday, June 27

Inverted Jenny

It is no good now, to relegate me to your desk, its rolling top accordioned down over aching limbs. You have crumpled me into a bundle of letters, long faded and tied with dusty ribbons.

In the old days, it was a brush, a teardrop tuft of some soft fur. You painted intricate characters on my skin and the ink slipped sweetly between us.

At dawn, I watched you scrub the tint from your hands and wished for an end to all mornings.

When you grew weary of darkness, the sharp nib of your fountain pen scratched indigo myth into my back, and red-ballpoint corrections flowed down each side. Once, you left a discourse in green marker, your declaration of independence stamped boldly at my waist. I thought that one true. It was the quickest to smudge, though your verdant prints lasted for days.  

Those nights of calligraphy stained me. Cuneiform shadows rise from my surfaces still, copper-brown or the cerulean of tranquil seas; but each dawn you returned to someone else's senses, ink trimmed carefully from your skin.

I am as patient as parchment, out of place, but I remember. However you inscribe me, emboss me, engrave me--by morning, the end of dreams is written plain.

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Michael gave me this prompt: "'Think of writing as writing a letter to someone.' -Kurt Vonnegut. Write about mail, or post offices, or postal workers, or writing and receiving letters."
I prompted lisa with: "Pressing business, tonight at the brocade factory."

Wednesday, June 6

Musica Universalis

Summoned, they stand in a line. Their eyes are fixed firmly on the floor beneath their predecessor's feet, the finely figured black-and-white tiles laid over wide, cold space. They are not frightened of the empty spaces between the tiles; they do not quail at the rushing constellations that pass within inches of rough, bare flesh. Oh, she loves them, the Ophanim. Her children, the living embodiment, the material crossroads of imagination and desire.

She is safe in this space--space is a hall made of calligraphy, cradled in a lotus inscribed with the nine thousand names of the holy. She is the bearing upon which time itself balances, and every avatar, every incarnation stands, patient, waiting for her direction. She reclines, listening to the distant murmur of women.

When Lailah wakes, the scent of burning sugar mixed with perfume still hangs heavy in the air. She pulls her makeshift bedroll closer. The floor creaks gently as she curls under the window of the abandoned house, the stars keeping watch. She grips a dirty twist of waxed paper in her left hand, singing under her breath:

"I will make a new clay bowl and inscribe it with the names of those who have cursed me, I will fire it in the flames of the house of bondage and the house of weapons until you call back the curses, until you call them back in the names of the angels, until you bless in the names of the angels, until you repent in the nine thousand names of the holy, amen amen, selah."

She spits between her forked fingers and pulls the pipe from her sleeve. Her thin, pale fingers scrape the sticky black opium from the waxed paper, rolling it into a ball. She sticks it to the pipe and lights it, placing her lips to the mouthpiece and breathing in prophecy.

For the Scriptic Prompt Exchange this week, Chelle gave me this prompt: "Time stood still as he/she watched..." and I gave lisa this prompt: "Puffy and Tina."

Tuesday, June 5


Here is a story, or maybe a song. 
One night in the house of pollution,
the house of unrest:

I ran from a sky on fire,
but this is not what I remember. I pushed open a rusted door,
screened with silted crossed wire,
studded with iridescent wings, pushed past a yellowed
notice. The words are lost, but the carpet was green

with moss or damp, missing decades hanging heavy in the air
and the end was in us, the end was with us even then.

We were there, in that lampless waste.
There was no sun to throw our secret shadows into relief,
hands touching behind the cream-laid screen, faces close together
And there was no moon to hear any whispered word.

The dream was dark. I ran on the dead,
tracked my heels and crushed resin scent away from the trees,
and I woke speaking.

I woke to find myself lost.
I sat up to sing of the end.

Tuesday, May 1

Thirsty Work

A bit of good news for the crickets and dust around here (and my remaining readers--hello!):

First off, a lovely chunk of poetry manuscript has been accepted for Chromatopia's upcoming collection. That will be published in 2013, but it's worth the wait. I promise. You can read about the other poets being featured as well, here!

Second, although I have a rather greater number of grey hairs than before beginning the project, the Tiny Book of Tales is finally formatted for the Kindle, and due to my outlandish ideas about e-book prices vs print prices, it's less than half the price of the print version. The Kindle version will be available within the next few days, if you are interested!

Thank you to everyone who has already supported me, and to anyone considering it in the future.

Holy stars. We are in the future and it is amazing.

Wednesday, April 11


Some claim April rain
brings the blossoms of May, but
trees here are hasty.

This is the opening stanza of this month's format challenge over at the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads. We're writing a renga together, and I'm so excited to read the finished result.

Monday, April 9


My walls were empty, the balcony swept,
all paints the color of the white roaring noise in my head,
and then the epiphany of loss.
I poured ink and chalk over my shaking hands,
dolefully smudging signs in every color,
lyrics rising from the pale,
the hieroglyphics of my life without you.

That was the year I locked all the doors, pouring vodka into the cuts,
eating only the memory of your tears. I wrapped my bleeding limbs
in bandages and silk scarves, threw blades to the floor and
caution to all the winds.

Now I have been longer without than within,
and yet, in the scent lingering upon my hands,
in the sugar and ash upon my lips, you remain.
In the deep trough of the night where I lie,
rocked on sleepless waves, in the hollows of
my skin your shadow dwells.

Thursday, April 5

Après moi

The strawberries are red lips, glistening in the bite marks, freshly glossed and plump. She catches herself staring at the half-eaten one dangling from her shaking hand and sets it cautiously in the saucer. Her teacup is just to the side, sitting in a ring of milky runoff, the pale tan soaking into her grandmother's lace tablecloth. Scattered strawberry leaves, still attached to garish red chunks, discarded like a tiny pile of skulls on some barbaric grassland.

She would pour herself another cup of tea, but the pot is cold, and the cream jug is in shards next to the antiqued baseboard beneath meticulously restored sash windows. Instead, she wipes her berry-stained fingers on the ruined tablecloth and rises, bare feet whispering over bare boards. She steps out of the sunroom, onto the neat grey carpet of the parlor, and when her footfalls grow silent, she might as well be gone.

The note under the sugar bowl remains, edges ragged with haste, a mute affirmation of months of suspicion. The blue ink scrawl, square and cruel, rattles latches in the darkest hour of the night.

In the carefully-appointed guest bathroom, she puts her small fist into the mirror they bought in New Orleans, silver-backed shards sticking in her knuckles, blood falling into the sink. Just droplets, at first, and then the deluge.

Trust is not porcelain, shattered once but potentially reparable. Trust is a dam that holds back everything we would rather forget.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Leo challenged me with "I trust you to break my trust in you." and I challenged femmefauxpas with "Please write a flash fiction story (600-1500 words) opening with a character stating, 'That's not enough,' into the phone and hanging up. There should be at least 580-1480 words after that opening. In addition, please ensure there is a clear ending to your piece. No 'to be continued,' no vignettes, no continuing characters."

Wednesday, April 4

clear skies

Old cat suns bones
on new carpet, already mottled,
Stippled with palm shadows.

Tuesday, March 27

Hello, world.

The day has finally arrived, sailors and sirens. My dinky little chapbook, hand-illustrated and Xeroxed in the first edition, has turned into a glossy china dish encrusted with the coral of the intervening years.

Which is just a silly way of saying, hey. The Tiny Book of Tales, second edition, is available for you to purchase, should you so desire. It's 20 poems, dredged from my many years of struggling to find the right words for everything. They're rough-edged, and I didn't want to polish too hard for fear I'd lose what they meant to me, every grey day, every long year until now. They're different, but, I think, still true.

If you are looking for a bit of history and context, you can find the Tiny Book of Tales on Amazon, or grab a copy from Lulu. It's a pleasure and a privilege to turn the page from that chapter to this one, with you.

Thank you.

Thursday, March 22

Spring-heeled Jack

This time of year again, full and floral in its certainty,
grates against my spine. The paper moon hanging behind
pale pink blossoms illuminates nothing but the aimless drift
of true north in my flesh, the brass key twisting, iron wires wrapped tight.

It's you, my personal four-minutes-to-midnight, dragging
this compass through no-man's-land. It's barbed wire alone separating us
from faded summer, shredding me like tissue while I survey these new coordinates;
diminishing your High Priestess of escape into mere avoidance adept.

The damage we do to one another is legendary, mirrors cracking
from side to side as we pass, seven times seven years of bad luck latching on.
All that longing after mutually assured destruction, now banked in ash,
the baleful ember of at least one crisis averted.

Still, your silhouette draws me in. Your shadow leaves me wondering through
every sleepless, jasmine-scented dawn. Is this love, or aftermath? Twisted metal
stained with red, the street covered with gems of shattered glass; perhaps it is loss
I feel. Or perhaps it is only the sound of another clock, ticking quietly toward the end.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Bran macFeabhail challenged me with "Crisis averted." and I challenged sparrow with "I say. Bad form, old chap."

Thursday, March 15

Changeover Cue

Possibly triggering; mildly graphic, domestic abuse, sadism, uncomfortable situations.

Thursday, March 1


Face pillowed on her strong arms, she dreams. The long muscles of her legs twitch as she races around the long-vanished track, outpacing her girl-companions. They are all mothers, now, in the waking world. Even her, once. Now, though, there are only the dreams, brilliant tapestry patched together out of a thousand memories. After the race, a feast, the feast decreed by her father for the winner, roasted meat and bone, slick fat dripping onto the coals of many braziers and ascending in smoke to the gods.

In the way of dreams, by now she is no longer in her racing garb and no longer a child. She reclines comfortably at her father's table, the scent of the black broth, prize of warriors, wafting from boiling bowls, the edge of her hunger growing sharp. In this moment, she is refined, a precious blade from the north. Honed to perfection.

Here in her room, she is no longer sharp and ready, but curled loosely upon the cushions. Her well-muscled hands twitch after the dreamfood, and her rose-tinted lips part, a coral blush rising in her full cheeks. Her breath comes short now, and her muscles strain toward unfathomable delight. Her servants, her guards, turn away, fearful of visions sent by jealous Aphrodite, but we gaze on.

The table is set, groaning with the dishes of her youth, and she tucks in, greedy with long deprivation.

Soft and pungent cheese, drizzled with amber honey. Precious oil carried from the Athenian groves, golden-green and thick, grassy on the tongue. Crumbling wheat-cake and chopped herbs. Grilled figs, sour-sharp olives, tender meat and crisp pomegranate seeds. Wine, oh, wine, black like the sea until mixed with water from her favorite spring, wine that flowed redder than blood, redder than crimson, redder than madder-dyed cloth.

Twice-abducted Helen sleeps through the long, hot days. There, she cannot know regret for her vanished lifetimes. There, in the memory-court of Tyndareus, she devours the bread and wine of dreams. There, no husbands or suitors, no ill-tempered gods, no daughter and no siblings torment her with obligation, and even in the midst of war, there is no one who would grudge her this escape.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, The Lime challenged me with "delicious food is involved", and I challenged Lance with "Detective Puppy and the Case of the Missing Knickerbockers".

Friday, February 24



Bright sun, shining through
rika-laden branch, compels:
shadows flee my heart.

Lichen blooms on elderly rock, oh! Sustenance!


Gentle white wing lofts
a view of discreet petals;
her fan beckoning.


Lucky bamboo, prisoned with rocks, invites--whose luck?


Without, sakura drift. Within, bare branches still.

Teikei (fixed-form) haiku for this month's format challenge at the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads.

Rika, 李花, ume (plum) blossoms, first harbingers of spring. Sakura, , cherry blossoms, full celebration of fleeting spring. Isshoukenmei, 一生懸命, to try one's very hardest, to do as best one can.

Thursday, February 16


Ragged edges and fists pounding against the tiled tabletop. I choke on the tears. They're so raw and urgent that it feels like I've had a wad of cotton shoved rudely into my throat. I can't breathe. I can't speak out against this onslaught. You turn me around, whirl me around the empty center, and I can't tell what I'm feeling, if it's anger or loss.

This is why I disappear into words, into music and books and oil paints smeared in schizophrenic patterns on our empty white walls (sorry about that security deposit, by the way. I guess it doesn't matter now), because they are more real and more vivid than any piece of my life with you. Books are dreams I can fall into when you offer me nightmares.

It wasn't always this way! I know that, I still know that, and I have no idea how we got here. Wasn't I in love? Weren't you? I wish you could hear me, even if you refused to answer.

Later, when I am lying on the kitchen floor, curled around a handle of cheap vodka, I will think this isn't so bad. Later, when you have been gone for at least a day, I might not feel so hunted.

You said you felt trapped, and I guess I can understand that. That's my problem, too, only I'm actually caught in the trap. Some days I could tear at myself like any other animal caught in something it can't understand. Some days it's quiet in my head until you bring the clouds home with you, until you track in hate and fear, black rage-mud ground into white carpet.

I am afraid the stains will never come out of our floor. I wish I didn't have to wake up, but I'm afraid that I never will. I'm afraid of leaving and of staying and of being caught between. I don't know where to go or what to do with myself or how to live with this ending. I don't know how this happened. Maybe I am as crazy as you said. I can't think straight anymore. I'm afraid this is a dream and even more afraid that it might be real.

I'm afraid that a new day is going to come, and I will still be right where I began.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Bran macFeabhail challenged me with "Listen to Monotov's Private Opera by Third Eye Blind and humour me with something bittersweet." and I challenged femmefauxpas with "Maybe it's a poltergeist!"

Monday, February 13


on this ash-smothered road,
at the top of a dead hill
there is no punctuation

some red corrections
smeared with bitten fingers,
pressed harsh into yellowed pages

and the year I left
wells up like poisoned water
on the verge of overflow.

step back, look away
from the brink, from the brimming.
I leave no stone unmarked
while evening's ink spills and splashes

around this circle gouged out of light.

Written for Marian's musical prompt at the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads.

Thursday, February 9

Pele Comes Devouring

This gorgeous image found at LUA Technologies' Tumblog.

The drums were pounding, louder than the earth's heartbeat sounding in the womb of Kilauea. The chanting on the crest of the House of the Moon carried deep into the caverns where Pele slept. The music and the drums, the cheering of the people, they drew her out, blinking and rubbing her eyes in the bright sun of the day.

Kahawali was chief of Puna, brightest and best, bold and sure. He stood atop the sleeping volcano they called the House of the Moon and looked at the people. Dancers swayed gently to the drums, decked in flowers. Wrestlers strained against each other, muscles turned into teak knots or rooted into the very earth. His people, he knew, were the best of all possible tribes, and he was the best of them. Kahawali was a proud chief, with wives and sisters and sons standing tall behind him, and his closest friend Ahua at his side.

The drums and music continued to build, and Kahawali gestured to Ahua, allowing him to begin first. Ahua's holua sled was second only to Kahawali-the-chief's, its gleaming wooden runners and narrow corded base sturdy and swift. Ahua lifted it high in the air and ran full-tilt at the holua course, flinging himself onto the sled at the very last second. The crowd breathed as one being and that is when Kahawali, proud and impetuous, took his run. He flew down the slope after Ahua, easily outdistancing his friend. The dancers cheered, the wrestlers shouted. The musicians played ever more loudly, and Pele drew nearer.

At the bottom of the slope, where a spear marked the end of the racing course, the two men laughed together. They picked up their holua sleds and began to hike back up the mountain. When they were halfway up the slope, Pele took the form of a woman of Puna, an elder, but common. She stepped out from behind the rock that hid her cave and planted herself in front of the noble pair.

"Let me take your sled," she said. "I want to race."

Astonished by the woman's presumption, the chief brushed past her without a reply. She appeared to crumple slightly, and Ahua helped her up the slope the rest of the way, to join the rest of the tribe at their festival. When Kahawali shouted to Ahua to hurry, saying that he wanted to race again, the woman grasped Ahua by the shoulder.

"I want to race," she said again.

Ahua was a kind soul. He smiled gently and handed Pele his holua sled, gesturing to the crest. "Please take my turn, honored elder." He turned back to the end of the course to mark the winner and Pele ascended to meet the chieftain once again.

Kahawali snorted when he saw the old woman approaching, but held his peace. There was no magnanimous head start this time. The chief and the old woman leapt for the course in the same heartbeat, equal in speed and skill. Kahawali was astonished and began to use every trick he knew, deftly weaving across the dormant cone, letting the wind rush across his body, waiting for the moment he could pick up speed.

And then it happened. The second-best sled that Pele had been given jumped--just a little--over a rock instead of sliding smoothly across it. The great goddess lost her balance and fell.

Kahawali laughed, loudly and derisively, as he slid into the end of the course. The people cheered. Pele, her disguise still intact, stood and brushed herself clean. Turning to the chief, she offered Ahua's sled, smiling.

"To be fair, now we should exchange sleds and run the course again," she said.

"Aole! You have no rank, woman," Kahawali cried. "You want me to exchange sleds? Are you my wife, that you should be allowed to touch royal property?" He turned and headed back up the slope once more.

Pele followed, remaining polite but insistent, growing ever more furious as the haughty chief continued to refuse, and even mock, her requests.

Kahawali ignored her and defiantly ran for a third time down the course, and that was it. Pele stamped her foot, her disguise falling away, and the people fell back in awe. Thunder rolled, and lightning struck wherever the goddess turned her wrathful eye.

The earth shook in warning, and Kahawali looked back over his shoulder. When he finally saw the true face of what he had been mocking, it was too late. The sleeping volcano had awakened, and Pele's wrath was boiling toward him, red, viscous, and relentless.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Jester Queen challenged me with "Deftly, he wove in and out of the cones, letting the wind rush across his body, holding himself coiled for the moment when he could pick up speed." and I challenged Bran macFeabhail with "Earthy Watercolor Blog Mom meets Biting Invective, the Prime-Number Raccoon."

I didn't want to make this too long; it's already longer than my usual entries. However, the ending of this story is really the best part. I could go on with the many ways Kahawali attempts to escape Pele's wrath, but (spoiler alert) Ka wahine 'ai honua, the Woman who Devours the Land, eventually prevails. At one point, she even surfs down the volcanic cone on her revenge lava and hurls red-hot stones at him, killing everything he loves, including (I kid you not) his favorite pig. Hawaiian mythology is rich and fascinating. If you have some time to spare, you should check it out!

Thursday, February 2


"Attention Barnes and Noble customers, the time is now 8:45. Our store will be closing in fifteen minutes. Please make your final selection and head to the register."

This is my cue to squat down behind the shelf marked "Computer and Technology" and look absorbed in the latest edition of XHTML for Dummies. The remaining stragglers, a few tweens in the Graphic Novel section that are trying way too hard to be different, begin to file down the stairs to the first floor and the long counter full of registers. Behind each register is a grim-eyed employee, smiling as hard as they can manage in this economy. They may hate their jobs and every customer they have to deal with, but they love that meager paycheck.

Heath is in the queue for the fifth register. The girl he's crushing on, Tish? She's six people ahead in the line, same as every Tuesday night for the past two months. I've watched every time. They always run into each other in the Science Fiction section. Once, Tish's hand lingered on a copy of Heretics of Dune just a few extra seconds, long enough for Heath to reach awkwardly for the same one and brush her fingers with his. This is what they do instead of dates. Neither of them are socially competent enough to even ask the other's name, let alone invite them for a cup of coffee, or Christ, to raid a dungeon with the other's guild.

It's okay, though. It's Valentine's Day, and Cupid is here for them.

I hunch behind the shelf and make a few necessary adjustments to the pistol crossbow in my coat. Ten minutes. If any employees are going to make a final round of the upstairs before closing, this is usually the time. I pull out a copy of Javascript and JQuery and bury my face in it, trying not to giggle at the stilted writing. I wonder who gets hired to write these things. Engineers, probably.

I read some incomprehensible programming instruction for five minutes, waiting for the next closing announcement. No one else wanders by, so I pull out my lovely little crossbow and take aim. I am a very good shot.

I have excellent timing, today--chubby, spotty Tish crumples lumpily to the floor just as her turn comes, and when Heath hikes up his ill-fitting pants to run to her side, I put my second gold-tipped bolt in his head. He falls flat on his face next to her instead, his sweaty hands flung out to her even as he's begun the involuntary shaking and jerking that follows massive brain trauma.

People are screaming and ducking for cover, but I've already made it down the stairs on the opposite side. I put my hands to my face and yell, "Oh my God," a few times. That gets me to the side of the building with the cafe exit, and no one's watching me anymore. They're watching Heath and Tish bleed out in unison, hearts pumping as one, together forever.

I adjust my coat and start whistling discreetly, but it's just too good, so I start to sing softly. "I've got you under my skin, hmm hmm hmm, I've got you deep in the heart of me. So deep in my heart that you're really a part of me..." I even do a little soft shoe to the Sinatra in my head on my way out the door.

True love is such a beautiful thing, I think to myself. I amble through the parking lot, in search of the next lucky couple.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Lance challenged me with "At a Barnes and Noble book store in Daily, Georgia, Heath Dipolo is standing in line behind Tish Bejerano. Have them fall in love in 600 words." and I challenged M. Hunter with 
"'C'est le Diable qui tient les fils qui nous remuent!
Aux objets répugnants nous trouvons des appas;
Chaque jour vers l'Enfer nous descendons d'un pas,
sans horreur, à travers des ténèbres qui puent.'

--Charles Baudelaire, 'Au Lecteur'"

Saturday, January 28

The Week in Someone Else's Words

An echo, reverberating backwards in time, a bell clanging in my unpadded head.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,  
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,  
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

19-30, The Burial of the Dead. The Waste Land, by T.S. Eliot. Go read the whole thing.

Thursday, January 26

Bolívar 1444

Buenos Aires, 6:00 AM
She wakes up all at once, eyes snapping open in the cold morning. Her eyelashes are clumped with mascara dried into spiders' legs, glitter and char smearing her puffy eyes. The delicate skin under her eyes is swollen and dark. Her hands are still covered in blood, half-dry but tacky enough to leave prints on the white linen as she shoves her way out of the bed. The pliers make a clattering sound when they hit the hardwood floor, even cushioned by the wayward duvet.

She stumbles toward the bathroom, but appears to hesitate, detouring left into the dining room. She picks up last night's half-empty bottle of whiskey and continues toward the kitchen, trailing her sticky hand along the waxed and polished surface of the dining table, burnished red-gold. The scent of lemon oil hangs heavy in the air. The pile of silver and broken china in the corner has a nacreous gleam.

She turns on the coffee pot and sinks down to the blue tile floor. She takes a pull from the whiskey bottle and sets it gently beside her. Her face is blank, inquiring, the face of a younger girl rediscovering a long-cherished piece of music. The burbling of the coffee pot punctuates the heavy silence and she cocks her head to the left, seeming to listen intently to a whisper that penetrates her personal fog.

She stands decisively once more, leaving the coffee and the whiskey to deal with themselves, striding into the bedroom to recover the pliers. She takes them into the music room, uses them to smash the enormous blue-patterned vase in the corner, then tosses them indifferently atop the leaking bundle of flesh slumped bonelessly in the center of the room. She scrabbles at the shards of porcelain without regard for her own skin, pulling from the mess a wad of cash and a wallet stuffed with rail tickets. She takes these into the bedroom, throws them in an open suitcase, then heads into the bathroom for a long-overdue shower.

She is gone by seven-thirty, and is never seen again.

9:00 AM
The fog of the morning is beginning to burn off already. The house is nearly silent, a dim retreat from the vague rush of the traffic outside. Sometimes people walking by are caught by its distinctive architecture, its inviting glow.

There are broken bits of teeth scattered on the floor next to the pieces of the vase, and they gleam in the new sunlight. The record player turns, ceaselessly, the restless scratch of the record's ending a whisper in the noise of the city. The house breathes, drawing in cool against the heat of the day.

Two weeks later:
The body, eventually discovered by the cleaning staff, is wrapped in black plastic and shuffled off to the city hospital. This case is all dead ends, and the police force is already overworked. No one can bring themselves to care about a pair of vagabond foreigners.

The file is put in the records room, the body cremated. It is a cold case.

The story sinks like a stone into some hidden trench, deep into the black. There is no publicity. The house is cleaned thoroughly and becomes just another rental property. This is not the first time the real estate agency has needed to employ a renovator known for his discretion.

When new couples come to view the house, it puts on its most inviting display.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Amanda Lynn challenged me with "a shattered vase, a pair of pliers, and two tickets" and I challenged Brad MacDonald with "After the wave."

Friday, January 20


I am the ocean's daughter,
adrift still on all these years.
Waist-deep in murky water--
is it rain I feel? Or tears?

First attempt at a tanaga, this month's format challenge, for the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads.

Thursday, January 19


"Good is restraint in body, good is restraint in speech, good is restraint in mind, good is restraint everywhere. The one restrained in everything is freed from all sorrow." 
--Dharmapada 361

In the first pale light of morning, the bell rings. I rise from the mat and resettle my robes. First the samkacchika, the vest that binds, then uttarasanga, our regular robe. I wrap uttarasanga around my left shoulder, its dull ochre weight anchoring me to the cool ground. Antarasavaka, the outer robe, is wrapped around my waist in precise pleats and secured with a plain belt.

It is not too cold this morning, but I fold the sanghati, an extra robe, over my right shoulder anyway. It is useful for long seating, even if the weather continues pleasant. I rub my hand over the fuzzy remnants of my hair. I am pleased to find it still short enough. I am not yet perfectly comfortable with the traditional straight-razor. I pick up my mala prayer beads and step out of the room, into the peace of the morning.

We eat what is offered. I was a vegetarian in daily practice. Now I take hot rice in my bowl and accept anything else that is given. There is strong green tea, bitter and lovely. The trick is to keep from eating too much, as the body then interferes with meditation.

After the morning hours, we fast. More bells ring, softly, and we head into the temple. We enter and execute a series of bows, to the altar, to the teacher, to each other. Some days we hold discussions. Most days, I will sit and just listen. I am practicing silence.

 "Do not speak, unless it improves on silence," runs the accepted thought. Not quite a joke, but not quite serious, either. In retreat, there are long periods of unified quiet, the deep hush punctuated only by the tidal sounds of our breath. The heavy scent of sandalwood rises from the 108 beads of my mala garland and the mantras recite themselves, echoing in my head as I breathe and turn the beads in order.

The sanghati, folded, makes an excellent pad for a long meditation. It does not shift under my hips when I move forward to listen to the murmured discussion of dharma and text. I try to let each phrase fall on an empty mind, dew on an untouched field.

For some, this story is a tale of repression or boredom. For me, this is the bliss of each day in retreat. I have decided I will pass the last three days in mindful silence, listening to the pulse of the universe.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, MaryBethC challenged me with "Write about the events leading up to your vow to stop talking for the rest of the week." My prompt, sadly, went unanswered this week.

Bhikkhuni Ordination from Ed Ritger on Vimeo.

Friday, January 13


it's a goddamned miracle,
your face in the morning,
rising into an evening of shredded song.

if I dare touch a fountain pen, dark words
fly out, iridescent black feathers
drifting down to lodge in my hair

where last night's sunset is still sleeping.
you remember a mirror image, I know.
you see silver-sharp and frail

when I am bone and ink and ember.
I am all of these, steel and amber,
shimmering oil on restless water, pushing impatient

at the struck match burning so slowly
toward your long fingers. I can let
the past reel out behind us like copper wire. I will not forget,

but I can still breathe you in,
old words tattooed in crimson
stitched into my skin.

Written for Marian's musical prompt at the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads.

Tuesday, January 10


You hover outside my sphere of influence,
ever so close to penetrating within. Just out
of reach, I run my hands along the barrier.
Now, barometric or interior,
pressures are shifting,

the wind is changing. You tell me
my eyes have informed the green of the sky,
the air, and just that fast,
it turns--the supercell whirls gaily toward me.

Your heart, the very center of the bow echo,
sets all the warning sirens shrieking.
That unearthly whine shifts all my dreams,
pierces and stitches. A careful injection
of your inimitable attempts at nonchalance,

at caution, anathematic caution.
For me, caution is just
the laughing mouth of the funnel,
its cruel gape breathing thunder down my neck

while I pull up my striped stockings,
slot garter buttons into each keyhole,
while I step into bright red boots
and wait for you to touch down.

Written for the Personal Challenge at the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads


At the very end,
a stubborn, lovely flower
bares its head, holds tight.

Thursday, January 5

The Point of Roughness

Midwinter spring is its own season, each day in grey and smoky green on muddy snow marching in sodden boots toward the solstice. It's cold in small bites, then suddenly warm, every breath of air fastening its teeth in a lover's ear, whipping loose hair across the face, then the shock of ice down the neck.

It is a fleeting season, fleeing before the gnawing specters of the longest night, the coldest months.

There is a hedge along the hill, still green against the rocky drifts, and it is covered in the wind's scattered offerings, blossoming not with petals but perfect geometric crystals. If you came this way, taking the route you would be likely to take, from the place you would be likely to come from, you might never notice the difference. This is the hedgerow that held out handfuls of honeyed blossoms in the hot summer when we said goodbye.

It is not the end of the world. That lies in England, or so I am told, by many a poem and song, somewhere behind a headstone, somewhere in the fog of the night's passing. Somewhere in the mist let out like the breath of green and living things. And there are other places, which also are the world's end, some at the sea jaws, or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city, but this is not why we are here, not something to speak in words on the shortest day of the year.

So we go behind the hedge, past the rocks in the hill, crooked old teeth of the earth standing still in a cast circle. Taking the hand of the person next to you in your own is an act of contrition, tribute paid to the dead shaking and sweating under our feet.

There, yes, there and then, what the dead had no speech for, when living, they can tell you, being dead:

The communication of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living. They whisper their threats, only just inaudibly, into the black and terrible night. We refute them with our pulse, with the song of living breath, with our stories and laughter held bright against Godfather Death.

We will speak of their dim lands someday, surely, but not today. Today we keep vigil for the extinguished sun, the brightness descendent into the underworld to speak with the dead in our place. Here, the intersection of the timeless moment between one year and the next, one inhalation of deep night exhaled into blue-banded dawn, inhaling: never. Exhaling: always.

So it goes, never and always. Earth and air, fire and water, incense rising from a burning cup into the last pale stars. The inexorable dead are silent for another three-quarter turn, the dead who rattle their bones against the dreams of held hands and gentle kisses. Implacable and resolute and tasting of despair.

Silent, yes, the dead may be, but they still make their motions in my sleep. They dance under my feet and leave me wakeful, wakeful. Thick yarn dangles from wooden needles, and there is Earl Grey tea in a white teapot under the world's blanket of snow, until the winter melts away into spring. I want to grow roses in blue clay pots. I want to write arias, bridges belling, belying the flutter in my stomach, in my heart. Then the newness of the year steals away all the words I might have had.

Summer has never returned the favor of my vocabulary, even in the Communion chalice of red-staining blackberries, hand-picked from martial canes, the juice mixed with blood from thorn-pricked fingers. I dance with the dead and hold silence in my heart.

There are reasons, but what they were I cannot say. They rely upon words I can not now speak in any comprehensible fashion, for last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Tara Roberts challenged me with "New Year's resolutions - your own or a story about keeping or breaking resolutions."

The italicized lines are taken from T.S. Eliot's "Little Gidding," the fourth of Four Quartets.