War Cries (first draft).

Hey readers! Just trying this out. Let me know your thoughts…

1:

A single torch lit the entrance to the private chamber, and as the widows approached, the light revealed their many hues of skin and dress, their jewels sparkled like crystal, rippled like dark red wine, shimmered with the green of a tranquil ocean.

Their collective expressions were somber, sad.

He would be leaving them once again; they never knew for how long, only that they must wake him to go. In their hearts, they grieved, for he would add to their number when he returned.

One of the widows stepped forward, her lithe form whispering against the fabric of her gown; she took the torch in a slender hand, and went into the chamber.

The light almost made it to the high ceiling, and fought bravely against the shadows, but was really little match for the formidable darkness.

“Duilius?” her dulcet voice called, a slight echo bouncing back to her ears.

She waited, knowing he’d heard; as she did, she looked about at the armory surrounding her, weapons he’d inspired in the minds of men. When the carnage was over, he brought them home to show, then to cast aside, as he had all of them, the widows of men.

She smiled at the thought: We, too, are now unused weapons.

She listened as the armored steps reverberated, a measured tread, slow, steady, and ominous. The sound of metal on metal rang out into the chamber, and he emerged from the semi-darkness into the semi-light, his visage scarred and terrible.

The scents of blood and smoke, waste and corrupted death surrounded him in a nimbus of pungent, horrific odors. It took everything for her not to retch.

Rounding the corner, he looked at her. His red eyes, flaring in the torch light, held her in a freezing grip of fear. He gazed at her a time, lust in his eyes; she saw him wrestling with his desire, and prayed that he would not take her.

Turning aside, he came to himself, and she breathed a sigh of relief.

“Vinya,” he greeted her, the rumble of his voice felt in the tips of her toes. “Where are the others?”

“Outside the chamber.” She managed to keep her voice steady.

“And why are you here?”

“Why do we ever come here, lord?”

He moved closer to her, and she stepped back, but held his gaze, moved the torch a little closer to his face.

His red eyes smoldered like embers, and he smiled; it was lascivious and cruel, mirthless and merciless, but she lifted her chin in defiance.

He reached out to take it between his fingers, his touch burning her cheeks like a high summer sun.

Her lips pulled back in a silent snarl, and her own eyes flared with their own heat.

“Ah, Vinya. You are fiery still. I thought once to break it out of you. I don’t know that I want to, but you should know that I can.”

Against the pressure of his fingers, she formed her words carefully, her hatred for him a rising tide that would one day sweep him away without a single regret.

“I am aware of your powers, Duilius. They frightened me once. Your devil eyes frighten me still, but you’ve done your worst, and yet I’m here. You should know, we are not done, not by any stretch of the imagination.”

He released her face, and she wiped away the crimson ashes his touch always left behind with the back of her free hand. He was blood and fire, indeed, but so was she, in her own way.

He nodded once in acquiescence to her standing up to him, but his patience was thinning; she would persist in her insolence, and he would ruin her beauty for it.

With a pompous air, he seated himself on a stout, high-backed chair, his attention no longer directly on her as a servant scurried to prostrate himself, and Duilius put his feet on a human ottoman, the full weight of his boot heels resting on the servant’s spine.

“Tell me, then. Where am I needed?”

She told him.

The torch sizzled and spit in the ensuing silence.

“Shall I help you prepare?” Vinya asked.

He looked up again, as if she’d just arrived and found him already seated.

There was something on his mind when he was hesitant, but she held her peace.

With a wave of his hand, he dismissed her.

“No. I will leave on the morrow.”

He rose, spared her yet another glance, and she hurled him another haughty look, and turned her back on him, leaving him alone in the darkness, with only his terrible eyes to light his way.

She felt those eyes as if they were hands.The heat from the torch was not enough to keep her from shivering under the weight of his stare between her shoulders, sliding down to her backside.

2:

 Back in his own tower, he took off the armor he’d made and tested in the underworld.

It bore the brunt of bites and claws well enough, and his newly sharpened blades had proven true, but he was running out of test subjects.

His dungeons were almost empty; he would need to remedy that soon.

The silent servants drew his bath, left his supplies and food, and lots of plum wine, and he was soon done with all of it, his eyes heavy, despite his desire not to sleep. It was happening more and more lately, as he got called more infrequently; peace was never kind to a soldier, whom having violently established it, now had to live in it with no further thought to what he’d done.

The thoughts of those men who killed flitted through his mind, as did the thoughts of those killed. The voices never stopped, and they weren’t always men. The higher voices of women and children carried over the lower frequencies of men, their screams of rage, their shocked questions of why, their desperate appeals for mercy, and then their snapping bones, their final moments before the arrows, the swords, the knives, the bolos, the spears, the stones, the molten metal…

He pushed it all back, and lay down, letting the candles gutter.

His sleep, though sound, was never silent, never fully dark. The deepness of it waxed and waned on the grand scales of wheeling stars, changing seasons, shifting tides, the tilt of planetary axis, and on the minutiae of an impulse of animal rage, the calculated, surreptitious slithering of snakes, the vicious, irreversible clamp of creatures with large fangs and evil intentions, the small dramas of life and death between predator and prey always played out before him.

Before he slipped into whatever level of unconsciousness he’d be able to achieve before his journey, the most unlikely thought flashed through his mind:

I no longer wish to be the god of war.

 

(To be continued)

 

© Alfred W. Smith Jr.

December 16th, 2014

War Cries

All rights reserved

Sleep, children. ( dedicated to the innocent victims of madmen)

Sleep, children.
The cowards who’ve stolen your childhood will pay.

Sleep, children.
For now with your friends you will no longer play.

Sleep, children.
Your parents must carry your bodies away.

Sleep, children.
Tomorrow for you will not be a new day.

Sleep, children.
And know that you will always

be loved.

© Alfred W. Smith Jr.
December 17th, 2014
Sleep, children.
All rights reserved

My Abandoned Blog

“Wait here,” Alfred said. “I have something to do way over there. I’ll be back for you.”

Do you promise?

“Yes, of course. I started out with you, so why would I leave you?”

It happens.

He laughed, took its hand, and kissed it lightly on the tip of its nose.

“Yes, it does, to other blogs. It won’t happen to you.

Very well, Alfred. I’ll wait here for you.

And Alfred left it, looking plaintively but hopefully at him as he turned to wave goodbye; it gave him a brave, if tremulous smile, and waved half-heartedly, wanting to believe…

And way led on to way, as the poem says.

The blog tried on its own to be good, to be relevant, to be vital and important, to be witty and charming, but without a fresh infusion, its health waned, and the visitors who came to see it didn’t stay long, and soon grew infrequent, and one day, stopped altogether.

The blog tried to be brave, but then a cold fog rolled in; still the blog waited, gathering its thin shawl about its shoulders, and folding its arms for warmth. It worked for awhile, but didn’t last.

By  now it was shivering, cold, and hungry for text, but there was no one around.

Alfred was hard at work, loading Christmas packages into trucks, first for fourteen hours, then twelve, and the blog was a vague thought, fast on its way to becoming a distant memory.

Weeks went by, and the blog finally sat down, and began to cry out its heart…

It’s almost Christmas, and he broke his promise. I’m sorry, Alfred, I couldn’t hold them…they left, and now, I’m leaving too…

The blog searched for a way to self-delete, when a voice called from the distance….

And now, before I end it all, the madness comes. I thought I heard his voice.

Again, the voice sounded, echoed, seemed to be closer.

No, thought the blog, no, I dare not hope…

The voice called it by its pet name. “BP!”  (an unfortunate choice, given recent events, but there it was…)

“BP!”

Footsteps, running hard, pit-patted on the road as Alfred came into view, anxiously looked for a sign that his blog was still there.

He didn’t see anything. He ran faster, hoping he was not too late.

The blog, rising on thin, shaky legs, used the last of its strength to stand.

It’s voice, cracked and raspy from disuse, was faint, but not gone. Alfred…

Just as Alfred reached it, it sagged into his arms, and he sat down, and laid it gently on his lap. His tears fell copiously onto the page of his abandoned blog, now dirty, dusty, and bleeding from the harm it was about to cause itself. He’d returned just in time.

“BP…” he sobbed.

And the blog reached up a trembling hand, and touched his bearded cheek.

You came back…

“I told you I would.”

But you forgot about me.

The words hurt, all the more so because they were true…

“I did,” Alfred whispered. Shame and sorrow heated his face. “I’m so sorry, BP. We’ve lost so much time. I don’t know if I can ever make it up to you…”

Time lost is…irretrievable, Alfred, but…we can go on….from here. Can you….?

“Yes, yes of course,” Alfred said.

Hands trembling with emotions, he spread his fingers over the warm, familiar QWERTY keys; the relief of finding his blog alive,  its forgiveness of his negligence, its still-abiding love for him, shamed him, humbled him, and gladdened him all at once.

And as he typed, the blog sighed in relief, and eagerly drank the text it craved; color returned to its cheeks, and its breathing evened. It was going to take more time, but at least now, there was a beginning.

“I’ll never leave you again, BP” Alfred said.

BP gave him a sad, amused smile, and kissed him lightly on the cheek, beard and all.

At least while you’re alive. Never say never, Alfred.

Alfred smiled back.

Beyond Panic was going to be all right.

A Thread of Human-ness

We all have

Uniqueness

in

Common

And

Conform

in

our striving to

be

Individual

© Alfred W. Smith Jr.

November 28th, 2014

A Thread of Human-ness

All rights reserved

“Colored” Signs and White Robes (No, I Will Not…a poem for Black youth)

Don’t tell me to ‘get over it’ because it makes YOU uncomfortable,

The founding of a nation on blood and chains should make you uncomfortable!

And though the institutions no longer exist, the attitudes of slavemasters yet prevail, 

Freely and proudly expressed!

So be it, but let this be too: the history of my ancestry DOES NOT BEGIN with bondage,

but the history of my ancestry HERE does, and so I will celebrate the TRIUMPH of their SURVIVAL, so that

I might sit here today and use this machine to type these words:

You will no longer brand me ‘animal’

or grind my dignity under your heel.

You will have no access to my joy

And I reject your invective as the source of my sorrows.

I do not seek your approval to grow and thrive and be.

I have no master in you, and you have no servant in me.

I will be free, in spite of, not because of, your documents that proclaim the very liberty for all men 

you’ve revealed to be a lie. 

You don’t get to define me, if you don’t want to know me.

You don’t get to classify me, when you don’t want to live next to me.

You don’t get to objectify me, because I am not here to amuse you.

You don’t get to nullify me, and say I shouldn’t be here: WE are the nation’s only IMPORTED immigrant.

I will not get over the chains I’ve never worn,  not get over the whippings, lynchings, beatings, rapes, torture, castrations, hunting hounds and K9 cops, bombings, hoses, “Colored” signs, white robes, shotguns, fires, burning crosses, burning bodies hanging from trees and bridges and tossed in rivers, broken and dismembered, and soil soaked in blood and lost years behind bars from false accusations I’ve never experienced, because I stand on the remains of all the rubble and remains of those lives; they are yet a part of me, and whether or not you “understand” it, it is nevertheless so.

And so I say again: I am FREE

but I, and my children, and their children

will not EVER

‘get over it.’

Ariana by the Sea

Ariana felt the hot sand sliding between her toes, heard the distant crash of the water smashing on promontory rocks. Not for her the water’s edge. The vastness of the ocean was a strange and fearful thing, and creatures lurked beneath it; she’d heard the sailors’ tales when she worked the tavern houses and inns, and did not wish to find herself bewitched beneath the waves.

And yet, her eyes kept straying there. So beautiful and savage was the sea. Swirling and surging now with a contained rage, blue and green and gray by turns, and powerful, flecked with the gold of a high morning sun, the wind like a child’s fingers on her cheeks and in her hair.

The wind hugged her like a lover; her dress clung to her, and a brief and rueful smile touched her lips, for she felt the curves of her body beneath, her childhood faded like a receding wave, once and done, never to be again, which carried a fear of its own.

Do you want to sail, Ariana?

Her heart beat faster with the thought.

Is there someone across the sea who’s named you for his own?

Her body tingled as an image formed in her mind, faceless, strong, with the hands of a sculptor, the hands of a man who could wring emotions from clay and metal and stone.

But what will he do with your heart, Ariana? What will he do with your heart? Will it still be loving when he’s done? Tender, or will he harden it in the kiln of his own soul?

She couldn’t answer, but did she dare find out?

A prod into the sole of her foot made her wince, and she hopped in the sand. It startled more than hurt.

An empty shell, curved and pink and white, gleamed from its sandy sepulcher.

She lifted its wavy, opalescent edge; it was warm to the touch, though there was no life in it.

She’d heard the stupid stories of how the ocean’s crash could be heard; she knew it was something else, but the notion was appealing, and no one was watching.

Plucking it out, emptying the sand, she walked with it awhile, admiring the useless beauty of it; its owner, no longer needing its protection, either abandoned it or was pulled out by a crafty predator.

Looking up, she saw a lone gull pass overhead; it called to her in solitary greeting, and seeing the shell was empty and the girl alive, he flew on.

Sitting on a dune where the sand grasses tickled her legs, she looked out at the mating blue of sky and water on the horizon, and put the shell to her ear.

And listened to the sea song, her heart beating in harmony, and from her thoughts it brought the face of her shadowy lover, and made the vision clear.

And he would sculpt her heart, and she would sing his hands, and when their work was done….

It would be as timeless as warm sand, enduring as stone and metal, beautiful as a seashell, curled and delicate, with thunder in its midst, tempestuous as a wind tossed wave, and fear of the edge and hiding in shadows would be no more.

You would venture beyond the edge, where you are afraid, Ariana?

The shell slipped from her fingers, its silenced song soaked into her soul.

Yes… yes

She would go.

© Alfred W. Smith Jr.

November 22nd 2014

They Have to be Invited In

They have to be invited in

After they ring the bell

I did, but didn’t know she’d make

my life a living hell

And ever when they lie with you

They lie to you as well

I thought the difference would be plain

But no, I couldn’t tell.

She left a desiccated heart

Inside a broken shell

© Alfred W. Smith Jr.

2014

They Have to be Invited In

All rights reserved