Wilting

The force behind the hand grows tired.

The field where words roared and played

is barren of life,

full of bare trees, hard soil, muddy snow,

lost time, and regret.

I own the irretrievable

and the unacceptable.

My idle hands have doomed

my legacy to obscurity.

I tell myself

I do not care,

and wonder why

I’m weeping.

They Will Answer

In the flurried, frenzied madness

are the words that never come.

There’s a sorrowful, silent sadness

like a rain soaked, broken drum.

 

When your spirit’s badly broken,

when the mocking page stares back,

and you’re reaching, reaching, reaching

down a hole that’s cold and black,

 

When the thirst is quenched within you

and imagination dies,

And the fire’s banked inside you,

no one’s there to hear your cries.

 

Go and order a tequila.

Go and throw a ball or two,

and somewhere between the sun and moon,

the words return to you.

 

For they never really leave you.

You’re a writer, after all.

When you give them life and purpose

they will answer to your call.

 

In the frenzied, flurried madness,

they will answer to your call…

Land of Dreams, Sea of Reality

It is here where The Land of Dreams blends in with the Sea of Reality.

I scoop the earth-blackened waters of its banks, only to see it slip through my fingers.

In the distance of my fantasy worlds,

Castles crumble.

Palaces burn.

and things that aren’t pretentious about

their brutality

break the spine of humanity

over their knees.

 

The crack of shattered, severed bone sounds like an

exclamation mark on the period of life.

 

No escape.

See? The gift abandons you, as a

faithless priest

his calling.

The candles in the temple are extinguished,

And canticles and prayers rise in supplication,

Only to get trapped in the webs and rooks of

defiled, unholy rubble, and desecrating doubt.

 

The hand trembles with pain,

wrinkles with age.

 

The fight is all-encompassing now,

and strength is leeching, leaking, leaving…

 

The Sea of Reality has the remnants of

wasted time, missed chances, lost loves

in your wake,

even as mines of potential and buoys of pleasure

come into view.

 

The sun perpetually sets on the horizon.

Fog will coat the water’s surface,

and the stars change position and darken

as you navigate.

 

The rudder of the pen skips,

The oar of the pencil splinters and cracks

even as it shrinks.

The laptop lighthouse can no longer illuminate

the safe harbor of your hopes.

 

Mortality and eternity mix and war,

the storm clouds full of nightmares realized,

the cirrus clouds of curried wisps of daydreams

fading to mist in the mind’s ever-changing weather.

 

A dark and silent bay awaits,

with no guiding stars,

no turning of the hourglass,

no sailing with the tide.

 

So then, captain, it comes to this:

Do you run aground, leaping safely to shore?

Do you founder and break on the coral and stone,

clinging to what remains?

Do you let go of the wheel of your life,

drifting into nothingness?

 

Or do you smooth out one last piece of parchment

like a billowing sail,

and once more

take up the stout and stubby oar

for the last voyage?

 

Words Like Seeds

You turn your back on

the futility of letters.

‘Try,’ they keep saying.

‘You must keep trying.’

So I cut back, and set fire,

not to plant,  but purge,

yet the seedlings land

inside the spongy soil.

With sustenance unseen,

they wait their seasons,

testing the moments.

Heart and mind,

Soul and spirit,

are made verdant.

Pods of ideas,

Sprouts of imagination

flourish, rising and twisting

through the lattices.

They pollinate on paper,

and pluck pixels from our fingers,

working the pages of trees,

buzzing among the LED bulbs.

The pencil is the silvered scythe,

the poem reaped in harvest,

and placed on your table,

steaming and new

before your eyes.

Savor it, for it is one of a kind.

 

 

My Melancholy Muse

 

A hint of autumn chill in the late summer air battled the smells of gasoline, bus exhaust, homeless people, cigarettes, stale urine, and the ubiquitous Cinnabon, a risky purchase down here at the bus terminal.
It was drizzling, and made the neon reflections shiny and the stones drab.
I bought two coffees and started searching, not knowing if I’d find her here.
We hadn’t spoken in a while, and I guess she got tired of waiting for my call; her message said she was leaving, and she hoped I understood.
I did, but I couldn’t let her go.
Checking the departure board there were eight buses leaving at this ungodly hour.
I found her in the last one. She’d bought a cheap green poncho that offered little protection against the elements, and the hood was over her hair. She was so lost in thought she didn’t look up as I approached.
An old blind man was sitting down from her on the bench, silently rocking back and forth.
“Dabria?” I held out a cup. Surprised, she looked up at me with those large, beautiful brown eyes that always seemed to shimmer like a sun-kissed lake.
She didn’t smile, or take the coffee. She just regarded me like someone she recognized and wasn’t sure she liked.
I proffered the cup again.
She took it, popped the lid, took a sip, and made a face.
“Sorry. Bus station coffee.”
She only nodded, then remembered her manners. “Thank you.”
I looked up at the terminal clock that had a booze ad on it; fifteen minutes until her bus left.
I said, “What are you—“
She held up a hand to stop me. “Don’t.”
“Dabria…”
“I said, ‘don’t.’ You shouldn’t have come down here.”
Time was short, and there was no time to filter what I felt. “I don’t want you to go.”
“No? Well, you sure have a funny way of showing it.”
“I’ve been writing with Nightshade—“
“I know where you’ve been. I’m having trouble understanding why you think I should stick around when she gets all your attention.”
“Because I always come back to you; you were the first, and I’m no less devoted to you now than when we started.”
“That’s a lie.”
I sighed. “If it were, Dabria, would I be here now?”
That gave her pause. “I…I guess not.”
The rain grew steadier, and somewhere in the conversation we got the blind man’s attention; he still rocked, just not as much, his head slightly tilted.
The wind harder, making the diverse odors swirl in a nauseating, miasmic, malodorous dance.
“I still need you, Dabria. We’re not close to finished, and I’ve started so late.
“Please, come home.”
“And Nightshade?”
“She’s going to be part of my life, too. Just not the main part. With you, I write what’s on my heart. With her, it’s what’s in my imagination.”
She smiled. “You do have a great imagination. I like tapping into it, too. But if I have your heart…”
“Then don’t go.”
The old blind guy had stopped rocking, and started to smile.
I reached out my hand.
She put the coffee in it, smiling. “Throw that out.”
Laughing, I tossed it, and gave mine to the blind guy. “Fresh cup.”
“Thank you. Glad you got your muse back.”
“Thanks. Me too.” I held out my hand again, and Dabria took it.
I kissed the back of it. “I promise—“
“Don’t.” She kissed me.
As we walked back to the entrance, I thought back to what the old man had said: Glad you got your muse back.
I looked back over my shoulder.
The coffee cup was on the bench, and he was getting on the bus.
“How did he—?”
“Don’t,” Dabria said.
I shook my head. “I won’t. Coffee?”
“When we get home, mister. You’re going to write all night.”
“Lucky me.”
She smiled, giving me a sideways glance from those incredible eyes. “More than you know.”

A Page a Day

A page a day,

the sages say,

is healthy for to write.

A poem, a story, ditty,

typed by day or

penned by night.

But sages are not writers

so no matter what they say,

when Muses seize you

by the throat,

you find you will obey.

So write whene’er you want to friends,

and write whene’er you can.

And listen to your Muses,

for a sage is just a man.

 

(*art by Sam Kennedy)

 

 

Red Jade: No Warrior’s Path

Still wanting to fight, Sora begged Chimatsu to continue.

Seeing her determination, and going against his better judgment for the sake of her father, he agreed.

The winter months flew by in a haze of pain, adrenalin, and feelings of inadequacy.

His litany of her wrongs seemed endless:

You’re fighting in anger.

You hesitate.

Your defense is lacking.

You’ve been captured.

You’ve been killed.

One day he did not come out to train her.

She practiced her forms alone, considering it a test of some kind, looking at the door to his swaybacked house, but it didn’t open.

The next day she practiced her weaponry, knowing he was watching, but nothing happened to make him open the door.

The next day she practiced longer, but he still stayed inside.

Enough of this!

She went to confront him as the day was ending.

She raised her fists to pound the door, only to find it was already open a crack.

A little thrill of fear made her peer inside, thinking she might find him dead.

He was sitting in front of a large, warm fire, drinking tea and eating a bowl of rice and some savory fish.

Her mouth watered and her stomach growled.

He knew she was there, but didn’t acknowledge her; he offered no food nor a seat by the fire.

“What’s going on, sensei?”

He set his bowl and cup down on a tray, then leaned back and steepled his fingers under his chin as he gazed into the fire but spoke to her.

“It’s simple enough; I can no longer teach you.”

“But I’ve been practicing!”

He shook his head. “To no foreseeable end. You lack skill, Sora, not heart. But in an actual battle, you’d be among the first to fall.

He sighed. “I’ve already written to your father. I will take no more of his money, and waste no more of my time, or yours.”

“So you’re saying…”

“What I’ve said before: the life of a warrior is not for you.”

“So what am I to do?”

“Rest, heal, spend the night, and in the morning, return to your father’s house.”

“I meant about my fighting.” She moved in front of him, blocking the fire’s warmth.

His eyes seemed to look through her as if she wasn’t there at all; her world was shrinking, and he wouldn’t even look at her.

“What am I to do about my fighting?” she asked again, her voice hitching.

He surmised that she needed to hear him say it, and as much as he didn’t want to, her refusal to leave forced it out of him.

He looked at her then, his eyes sad and somber, the firelight dancing in their depths; to her he looked like an ancient god in transition.

“Fight no longer. Marry, and raise children, a son perhaps; one who can take the road you seek.

“Your skills are adequate, but they need to be superior, and for that, you have not the skill.”

Her fists clenched, she began to pace. “You’re wrong! You’re wrong about this! About me!”

Again he shook his head, the fiery eyes tracking her.

“No, I am not wrong. Here is what I am: too old, and too slow to help you improve.

“The truth is, Sora, I’ve enjoyed your company, but as a student of the killing arts, you will be the only student I have failed.”

That made her stop, her face betraying shock, and she spluttered and swallowed whatever she’d been about to say in protest.

He rose, shifting his weight like a log in the fire, poured her a cup of tea and shambled over to give it to her while he gave her advice.

“Abandon this road, and live a longer, happier life as a civilian. The warrior’s path is not for everyone to walk.”

She took the proffered cup because she needed something to focus on to keep from screaming, and because she didn’t know what else to do.

All this time, he’d not said a kind word, or did a kind deed, but now that he was done with her he was almost gentle, and even a little sad.

It made no sense.

He returned to his chair, and indicated with a small sweeping gesture toward the pot that she could help herself to some food.

She looked at him, but his eyes were closed now and she couldn’t tell if he was sleeping.

Emotions fought within her, but there was too much and nothing more to say.

The bowl steamed in the cooling evening air as she sat on the steps, watching the shadows lengthen on the ground.

Swarms of gnats and small butterflies played around high stalks of flowers in the persimmon rays, and the birds began their evensongs.

She concentrated on the beauty of the scene in front of her, and felt the rhythm of her heart slowing.

Eating without tasting, she finally finished everything and left the bowl and cup on the steps.

On her way back to the cottage she began to turn Chimatsu’s words over in her mind.

Inside, looking around at the sparse furnishings there came a realization that as harsh and uncomfortable as it had been, she’d endured it, and that was something.

If nothing else he’d released a side of her she didn’t know she possessed.

He said the warrior’s path wasn’t for her, but maybe it just wasn’t a straight one. The truth was, she loved the feel of the weapons, loved the hum and swish as she sliced the air to chunks and the straw men to ribbons.

It thrilled her.

And yet, for all her joy, Chimatsu had basically shown her that even at the end of his fighting days, over before Sora was born, he could still beat her; he would brook no excuses as to his reputation.

“Your opponent doesn’t care who you are.” Splat!

Still, his name struck fear into hearts of enemies and allies alike; he’d went through both with equal alacrity and aplomb. In his time it was considered an honor to fight beside him, and a death sentence to fight against him.

He told her she would never be worthy of being considered either, and in the cold, empty embrace of this strange place in a strange land, alone where no one could see, she allowed herself to cry.