THE SETTING SUN shone as if held in place by hand. It sent a band of light down the narrow slot that remained between a low layer of clouds and the flat horizon. The pastel light fell at an oblique angle, gleaming on the wet street, the car roofs, and the windows of buildings.

     I walked home from class, the sun at my back. Traffic was brisk and the sidewalk was clogged with weary pedestrians, most carrying bags or packages. The people looked straight ahead and walked with purpose. I was an exception, my eyes scanning theirs as they walked toward me.

     “That’s how you tell the country people from the city people,” one of my U of W classmates had commented as we had walked home a few weeks ago. “Country people make eye contact.” (more…)

Regretful Song of the Ankaranth

 

All away, all away,
cursed and blessed,
the ordained waters bled.
All away, all away,
the Ankaranth stand alone,
letting the gods take their lives’ daily bread.

 

Sinking under the land,
crying with their struggle,
contacting death as an eager friend.
Screaming with hands upright,
letting fatigue wash them over,
adrenaline powering a futile fight,
though a massacre’s blood will blend.

(more…)

     There once was a queen who was brought to bed of a son so ugly and badly formed that the midwife doubted the baby was human.

    “It isn’t normal, ma’am. You may have been bewitched.”

    A fairy who was present at the birth reassured the queen.

    “The boy is healthy. He will always be lovable, because he will have plenty of wit, which is to say presence of mind. By virtue of the gift I now bestow, he will also be able to give as much wit as he wants to the person he will love the best.”

    This prediction consoled the poor queen. Though beyond reproach, she was distressed to have brought into the world such a queer monkey. True enough, when the child began to talk, he said a thousand pretty things. And something in his prinks and pranks won people over. His mother, his nurse, and the inner circle of the royal court proclaimed him utterly charming. (more…)

     Like the sarsen stones and sequoias that lined the frozen rails from City Junction to the rumbling oak mines, Philip emanated heft. To strangers, he appeared to possess a petrifying and feral strength. However, once acquainted, they saw he directed his brawn with dignity and was no more threatening than the quaking dogs the president, it was rumoured, used to warm his bed.

     Forsaken at the station gates and pressed into service still barely able to say his name, Philip had grown – composted in coal dust and fertilised with cruelty – into an impeccable employee of the North-Eastern Train Company. As such, he favoured new overalls over boiled, cultivated no beard or sidebrooms and since keeping secrets was discouraged, kept only one: when doubt and unease called, he would touch the tattoo of Mellusa, eternal pacifist and gentle dissident, that tumbled in pale inks down his side.

     Each morning, before attending to the matters a train driver must to ensure no calamities occur down the line, Philip placed a hand across the silver button pinned to his chest and opened his lungs:

 

Through the fiery forests

And the fields that feed this land

Whether worker, child or soldier

We’ll lead you by the hand (more…)

     The storm, when it comes, is a storm of teenage girls.

     Teenage girls in miniskirts, teenage girls in strategically ripped jeans, in ill-fitting yoga pants. Teenage girls texting, taking selfies as they fall. Teenage girls taking the best picture ever.

     We can hear the chatter of their voices in the moments before they strike the ground or the rooves. One of them gets hung up on the fencepost outside the Catholic church, another draped over Mr. Schmiedeskamp’s old Studebaker. Some of them are singing.

     After the storm, we’ll be the most famous town in the world for a few days. The media will use the word deluge to describe the storm. The girls from the storm will remain unclaimed, dazed. Some of them will be scooped up in Jimmy Kuykendall’s roadkill truck and disposed of properly. Others will stumble round the town on broken ankles. The media will try to interview the girls from the storm, putting microphones into their stuttering faces.

     I’m fine, the storm girls will say. How’s my makeup?

     Leonard from down the street will fall in love with one of the storm girls, one with curly red hair and a broken smartphone. When he takes her to the local diner for a hamburger, she’ll stare at the cracked screen whenever he speaks. She’ll accept his declarations of love with a bemused smile.

     She’ll say: Sure, Leonard. I love you too. Sure, let’s get married. (more…)

     This happened long ago, exactly as I will describe it to you. One morning, an Indian named Jacinto walked to the headwaters of the Amazon, where he lived. There was yucca in plenty at his home, but he craved protein, and cast his line into the coffee-colored water and hoped for a delicious catch. Almost at once, the line went taut at the end of his wooden stick–I will not call it a fishing tool– and he lifted his catch in the air. His eyes grew wide; the fish, perhaps one pound in weight, glittered in the morning sun. Jacinto turned to his left with the fish held aloft, and let it down slowly onto the grassy bank; he squatted and watched it gulp for air and at last lay still. Inside its gills, stones sparkled. He took a finger and pried them loose. A single diamond and single emerald fell to the ground, and picking them up, he marveled at their properties. It defied credibility. He pocketed them and turned over the lifeless creature. Again with care he ran his rough finger down the length of the fish, and then reached beneath its gills. Again, stones emerged: a diamond, flawless in its handsomeness and an emerald as richly green as the basin of his home. (more…)

     In a land of grassy green meadows and thickly forested hills, not unlike upstate New York or Vermont, lived a little girl named Cheddarella. She was thin, with elbows that poked and a chin that jutted. Everyone agreed she was sharp.

     Cheddarella lived with two older sisters, Lactette and Butterinda, on a farm with one hundred cows. Their father drove the cows out to pasture in the morning and back to the barn in the evening. He milked them twice a day. Their mother made the milk into skim and two-percent, cream and yogurt, and a certain kind of cheese. Cheddarella helped her father with chores in the barn, and her mother with chores in the house. She was stronger than she looked, so no matter how hard the task, she got it done.

     Lactette and Butterinda never lifted a finger on the farm. They went to school, where they learned to read and write. When they were home, they complained about how hard school was. They watched cartoons, flipped through magazines, and talked about friends in an unfriendly way. Vain and idle, they believed that life should always be fun and easy as pie.

(more…)

these bones are restless

just because you have forever

doesn’t mean time doesn’t

pass any more quickly or slowly,

and i suppose you are to thank

your parents for life;

but who could thank you for this

thirst that never dies in any of the seasons?

i prefer cloudy days and days full of rain,

but i can weather those of sun;

i’m not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse

when many of our kind can’t—

i remember in all of my dreams you are always

so distant, father, as if i am some bruise

that kills your ego;

come and claim your thorned rose before

the roses forever shut you out

into the dark of which our kind seeks and adores

like black opals around their throats—

i have grown accustomed to all the silence you’ve given me

after all i have cried out for years to tell you that i missed you

never once do you answer my missives even in my dreams

you look but never answer me

as if it is too painful for you to acknowledge my existence,

but father sometimes it is painful to exist when i know you do not care;

why wasn’t i good enough to be loved?

i wonder if you are so distant to your other children

or did they always feel the feathers of your love soft and warm?

the thought of that drives me mad, sometimes;

may your cruelty and silence kill you as it has killed me.

(more…)