January 19, 2017 § Leave a comment
you undress your soul for me
slowly, the shyest striptease
pausing with each layer, poised to flee
like when I walked careful and quiet through the woods
and stumbled upon a liquid-eyed deer
in the sudden openness of a greening glade
and we stood, staring and alert,
I, not daring to breathe
She, frozen and tail-flickering for danger
an otherworldly blown-glass moment
that lasted into forever and only an instant.
And here we are
in the tangled forest of our lives
forging new trails and stumbling, startled
into a dusk-drenched clearing
our wide eyes meeting, unexpected
and the world hushes
just to hear the aching perfect harmony
of our heartbeats.
What did you see, in that first moment?
I found myself absorbed in you:
your battered armor over rough scarred hide
glimpses of the soft tender places underneath
wondering, imagining at what lay at the core of you
and now, day by day, you show me more
you let me help remove a piece of armor
you pull off the worn gambeson
and there’s bracing tension in your every line
uncertainty and nakedness in your averted gaze
have you truly seen yourself
beneath those layers of hiding and protection?
You are corded with the sort of muscle gained by heavy trials
amid the places you’ve tended into softness,
the webbing of scar tissue
and the way you’ve stretched through it,
the art inked upon your soul
molding yourself with Will and care
into a sculpture of your own choosing.
You are more beautiful with every newly revealed fraction of you
and my heart’s song winds even richer harmonies with yours
and I am falling deeper in love
the more of you I learn.
October 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
Give me love like an anchor in the storm of my mind
a resting-place to return.
Give me love like a harbor,
the stone walls of a home,
solid and windowed and rooted below.
I fly, my loves; I soar.
This bird was not made for a gilded cage.
Give me love like the sky that can hold my whole wonder
an endless expanse to explore.
Give me love like the thermals
joy of flight, soaring height
discovering all we might learn.
I hunt, my friends; I strike.
This hawk takes no hood, just the glove.
Give me love like the pyre when my feathers have dulled
a passion intense and white-hot.
Give me love like a crucible
heat under pressure
to ignite, to renew, to transform.
I burn, my beloveds; I ache.
This phoenix requires the sun and the flame.
September 23, 2016 § Leave a comment
Imagine a valley in the heat of a desert. Parched land, cracked and hardened for miles, dotted with hardy dust-drenched wildlife and prickling cacti. In the midst of the desert runs a river: sometimes nearly barren, sometimes overflowing its banks, carving a sloping trench of greenery through the dryness and the sand. And where the green meets the sand is a tent of jewel-bright colors.
They are this: the floating of silks in the wind, the soft heavy drape of velvet, the rustle of cotton and linen. Layers of cloth to make a dwelling, to signal a presence, to conceal and reveal. Shifting fabric of every texture and rich color. A tactile experience and a visual one and through it all the scent of oils and resins perfuming the night air.
Are they a tent or a temple? A disorienting maze of silken walls that shift with the wind or a draping comfort that muffles the sand and sound outside? Is the brazier of incense a thing of sensuality or sacredness, or perhaps it is both…
At times one might glimpse a repaired tear, a sword-gash sewn back up and layered over with watercolored silk, a rip mended with gold embroidery and glinting beadwork, a handful of loose threads longing for their former mooring. There is calligraphy along every seam and hem, tapestries holding knowledge in their warp and weft, a wisdom in the paint and ink hidden in the fluttering of layered veils.
Here and there are crystals to catch the twilight filtering through the gauzy roof, and sometimes an open space above to see the diamond starscape. Now and then there are chimes softly singing, and a tent-pole strong and bracing amidst the fluidity of cloth. The sand shifts beneath the woven tapestries of the floor, yielding yet supporting all at once. All is air and water, the night breeze playing on the surface of liquid cloth.
September 23, 2016 § Leave a comment
They are bright eyes in the summer undergrowth, the white of fangs in a merry grin. The greenery grows through the cracks of concrete and stone, and there they are too, bursting with irrepressible life.
Fairy-bells chime like silver laughter. Dandelions and chamomile erupt out of a sidewalk seam. There is a synanthropy of fluttering feather and flashing fur in city back-alleys. They are green summer life blooming in unexpected places, in spaces designed to keep it out, in scaffolding steel and the earth paved over. And they are the wonder and pause in the bustle of grayscale life upon noticing, like a sudden breath or a break in the clouds, the abrupt color of petals or the subtle gleam of fox-eyes.
There’s resilience in this verdant softness, and a gentleness. There is the service-delight of brownie and the green-tending of the sprite, yet there is too the tender sensitivity of brush-tailed fox and child-wise Fool. They are emotions experienced whole and pure, with sorrow and hurt flaring as vibrant as joy and delight.
They are the softness of fur in a close warm den, the tumble of fox-kits with their coats sun-shining. They are the shining fall of water down a cliff-face. They are soothing spiced tea and the warmth of friendship deepened over a shared cup. They are summer intensity in all its greenery and emotion and heat.
August 25, 2016 § 1 Comment
You are not safe to love
with your quiet wounds and thorn-defenses
sharp hooves and antlered crown, accustomed
to being hunted, sensitive
to being prey, and determined
to defend you and yours.
You are not safe to love
with your hidden grove and covered trails
your hunted heart that harmonizes
with one who grasped me hard enough to break
your clever reading of the herd
and the shadow of your crown is colored with
the stain of dried heartsblood –
and I am shy of risk.
My heart still recovers from the infection She left;
the scar still runs raw and seeping in my chest.
You are many things I have said “never never” to –
your private ways, your dried-blood crown,
the fear-sweat of defensive prey-beast I smell when you feel threatened,
the physical distance, the generation gap,
this oh-so-quick closeness between our hearts.
I am not safe to love, either
clinical caution and cold analysis
peering under every crack and crevice I can find
prying beneath your armor
challenging, questioning, testing
to try to learn the dangers before I go too deep
before I get too attached (oh, too late, too late)
my chance-shy mind seeking some kind of control
constriction instead of trust, so rigidly wary
–and I am wounded too
a skittish hunting-bird, pupils pinning with stress
and a serpent lives within my breast, dry-scaled and hungry-eyed
its fangs rust-red with old dried heartsblood
(not unlike that upon your antlers, and so you see
we share the same color of a shadow
though they take different shapes)
You do not push and pry at my defenses,
only share of yourself and wait for me to respond.
You ask for trust, as you stand there with open heart and open hand.
You ask me to gamble, to jump per chance to fall
(or fly, and it’s true that I have wings
and sometimes they even work)
–to choose trust, as you do with such fervent intensity
and joyous passion, despite betrayals and
all those old wounds in your unguarded spirit
and I am awed, I am humbled, I am set aflame.
We are not safe to love
with this gulf of land between us
connected by signals bounced between stars
by glowing mirrors sharing words and faces
the moon changing phases so many times
before we can touch.
Yet we do, love–
and I remember the last time I leapt into this level of uncertainty
this kind of deep passion and this whirling dance
long ago, and oh, the rewards of that are with me still
in the growth-rings of my spirit
in the warming of my heart–
It was worth it then, and I suspect
(thrilling, fearing, smiling)
that it is worth it now,
that you are worth this risk,
that We are worth this leaping into falling,
August 24, 2016 § Leave a comment
Written because Jess asked me for a story about a fox and an apple tree that won’t bloom.
Once there was an apple tree on a grassy hill, and as far as the eye could see were waves and waves of long golden grass like a great windblown sea, dotted occasionally with graygreen sagebrush. And this was great for hunting rabbits or prairie dogs or mice or pheasant, so it was paradise to the fox with the greygold coat who arrived on black stockinged paws to the wide sky-crowned plains.
The fox crept through the grass, ate well on too slow mice and an occasional vole and sometimes a rabbit or hare. And as the season wore on and the plains turned to all shades of ochre, the fox knew it needed a home to hide and stay in before the winter snows arrived. So the fox found a hill with the only tree visible as far as the eye can see, a gnarled apple tree with low crooked branches as is often the way of apple trees.
The fox thought, “ah! This is perfect! Apples will draw all kinds of tasty creatures, and sometimes I like a bite of fruit too. The tree will shelter me from the storms and the roots will support my den and protect it from caving in.”
So the fox began digging and digging and digging with its sharp clever paws and pointed black tipped snout rooting around in the earth.
But the tree was already asleep although its leaves had only just begun to flame with autumn colors. So the crooked apple tree simply dreamt a quiet dream of scratching fox paws and a wet cool nose against its roots, of soft fur and a hollow place where solid earth used to be, of cradling rather than being cradled as it was used to. The tree’s fading crisping leaves whispered with its sigh, though no one would be able to say if it was the kind of sigh that comes with furrowed brows and discomfort or concern, or if it was the kind of sigh that comes with a settling into comfort and satisfaction.
Winter came with its cold winds and blowing snow. The fox huddled in its cozy new den lined with fur and sage and prairie grass, cradled by loam and apple roots. The fox hunted across the fresh snow blanket, listening with pricked ears and tilted head for the quiet scratching sounds of mice tunneling beneath the white, pouncing with its tail streaming behind like the streaks of golden sun at the gray stormy dusk.
Spring dawned slowly, the sun thawing the ground into slick mud and soft loam. The prairie awakened into pale green grasses tipped with white so that the wind rippling the plains looked even more like a foaming sea. The crooked apple tree stretched to the crisp blur of the sky and yawned its creaking-branch yawn and sprouted tight-curled green shoots of leaves and new twigs growing slow.
And the fox leapt about with pent up energy. Soon there would be treasures of pheasant eggs and barely-furred rabbit kits if only its clever nose could sniff them out. The fox had grown lean of body but lush of coat in the winter cold and now it was time to eat eat eat until it regained muscle and fat and glossiness. Spring! Spring! Spring!
“Oh,” groaned the tree in sluggish waking startlement. “Oh who are you who has dug a hollow beneath my rootbones where solid earth once supported me? Who are you who yips and scratches and snores against my hidden skin?”
The fox paused, because it had never been talked to by a tree before. The trees of the wood it came from were busy talking leafy gossip to one another, or the aspens who lived as one connected root system and sang deep harmonies among their roots and melodies in their tinkling gold-coin leaves.
“I am Fox,” it said, “sharp of ear and quick of paw, pouncer and leaper in the snow and grass.”
“Leaping Fox,” creaked the apple tree, “why do you disturb my roots?”
“I needed a home and you are the only tree as far as my sharp eyes can see. Trees are excellent for burrow dens. And the birds and rabbits and mice will come eat your apples, and maybe I will too, and it will be excellent easy hunting.”
The tree shuddered against the sudden stillness of the air. “Pouncing Fox,” it said, “do you see any sprouts from appleseed children, or nest-remains in my branches? I do not flower and therefore I do not fruit. I am barren and if you stay here you will be barren too. Nothing feeds or shelters with me. None disturb my dark places, except apparently sharp-nosed foxes.”
The fox thought about this. “Still,” it said, “the grasses are rich in meat and only the coyotes and sky-hunters compete with me for it. You are the only tree around and you are excellent shelter. I suppose the lack of apples isn’t too terrible.”
“No, Quick of Paw,” said the tree. “I do not want hollows in my roots or chatter on my hill. Go somewhere else.”
“But I have made my home here already, and you are alone. I am good company, I sing well and have soft fur and bright amber eyes.”
“A tree is no company for a fox,” groaned the tree, “and there are no other foxes here. You will become lonely and leave, for I am a crooked barren apple tree who bears no apples.”
The fox was confused and also annoyed at this point. That den took a lot of work to dig and this place was an excellent spot. Also the tree was talking nonsense. “You are still a perfectly good tree, smelling of apples in your wood, providing storm shelter with your trunk and gnarled limbs, and your roots are very strong and deep. Besides, if I get lonely I can find another fox and bring them here and then the hill will be merry with singing and there will be playful kits and we will dance beneath the stars and your branches.”
The tree shook and protested a third time. “A fox is no company for a tree, and there are no other trees here. You cannot break my loneliness with your dancing and red yowling, only disturb my rest and remind me that I am alone. Then my heartwood will break and my roots will rot and you will be disappointed or harmed or devoid of shelter.”
The fox circled around the tree and circled around its own tail. It looked up at the crescent moon and down at the greening grass. It listened to the creaking branches and sniffed at the messages the wind brought. It thought very hard, which foxes are not good at doing because they are impulsive creatures of feeling and action and in-the-moment cleverness, not of planning and contemplating. That sort of thing is more for wolves and grasscats, you see, who are rather less successful than foxes overall.
“You want me to leave,” the fox said slowly, ears laying back. “You want to be left alone. You do not like fox songs and moon dances and soft fur in your roots. You would rather the distant chime of stars and whisper of grass and nothing warmer or closer, and certainly nothing nestled into your roots.”
The tree was silent for a long long time, until the fox began to think it had imagined the tree ever talking at all; after all, trees normally only talk to other trees, and sometimes to birds and worms and bees. And the occasional ivy or fungus, to scold it.
“I… might like fox songs and moon dances, eventually. I might like soft fur in my roots. I would not like an empty hollow that you dug so inconsiderately; I went to sleep with solid earth beneath me and awoke with a hole filled with a fox. If you leave or die, it will be an empty hole and I can’t move to fill it in. There is little else that lives on the hill to replace a soft furred fox, and an empty hole in my roots is a terrible gaping weakness.”
“Ah,” said the fox, beginning to understand. “I see. Foxes live ever so less long than trees who live for many lifetimes, and sometimes we are impulsive and follow the moonsong to new places and different homes. And you are a tree who cannot follow wind or moon.”
“And I do not flower nor do I bear fruit. I am visited by neither bee nor butterfly to bring me whispers from other trees beyond the sight of the hill. Nothing would come to replace a fox who reminds me how alone I am by tricking me into conversation and companionship.”
The fox thought a while longer (and remember that this is very hard for foxes). It really liked its den on the hill in the rich greengold plains with a single tree for shelter and shade. It rather liked the lonely gnarled apple tree, even if it didn’t bear fruit or flower, and really that was a blessing for a fox den as fewer prey nests meant fewer bigger predators and less to eat the kits.
“I will travel to find a fox friend who will dance the leaping fox dance with me and sing the song of stars and amber moon. I will return and we will make sure the hollow beneath your roots will always be full of warm soft fur. Sometimes there will be no kits and we will both be hunting and the hollow will be empty for a time but then we will return and fill it again. And you will shelter us with strong crooked branches and deep holding roots.”
So the tree agreed, and the fox went away under a path of silver moonlight and windswept grasses until it was swallowed up by the prairie sea and the rolling distance. And as the tree waited, it was keenly aware of the hollow in its roots where once cold solid earth had been. And it missed the warm fullness of soft graygold fur and a sharp black nose. It felt lonelier than it ever had before because now it knew the emptiness of dark earth and a claw-carved hollow that once held a fox. And the tree became sad and scared and angry all at once. It never asked for an amber eyed Leaper to dig out a place in its deep solid roots. It is a barren apple tree who not even the bees visit and it had lived just fine like that for many years. What right had the fox?
But it missed the fox, and its branches creaked angrily about that too even as its leaves rustled with sadness. It never got to see the moondance or hear the yipping fox song. And the cold constancy of star chimes and grass whistle was not the same comfort anymore.
What if the fox never returned and never meant to return? What if the fox didn’t find a foxfriend to bring home, or the other fox convinced Sharp Ears to stay with them? What if another apple tree flowered and bore bright sweet red fruit and made a more appealing den?
The tree was alone and the loneliness was far more unbearable than before.
Or what if the fox died a short sharp fox death out in the wide world beyond the sight of the hill? There are grasscats and hunting hounds and wolves out there after all, and foxes are impulsive things.
What if the fox forgot the tree?
What if, what if.
The summer heat unfurled the tree’s leaves and singed their edges, because there was no company of trees to share shelter. The summer sun turned the greenwhite grass to amber like the fox’s bright eyes, and still no fox arrived.
A family of rabbits moved into the hollow, and their fearful pitterpat hearts and stamping feet were a different company than the fox. But at least the hollow had warmth and fur, even if the rabbits gnawed with their sharp hard teeth on the tree’s deep roots, and licked the sap that bled, and let the insects burrow into the wound.
Maybe there are many hills with a single barren tree atop them, aching with the hollow in its roots.
On one hill, the rabbit warren grows and grows and they dig a hundred hollows beneath the roots and chew the taproot for its bark and sap and the tree has no more nutrients to reach and cannot support such hollows though it tries, for at least the furry bodies are warm and fill the hollows they dig… but there is not enough solid earth and it collapses as its heartwood rots.
Or a small child comes with snares, or a coyote pack with hunting jaws.
On one hill the rabbits are killed and eaten, or they move on when they realize the tree will not give them apples to munch on, and the hollow remains but bigger and with some wounded roots, and the tree heals, and someday the hollow collapses and the tree is rooted enough to withstand it, and the fox never returns.
One hill’s fox is eaten, and one hill’s fox is tempted away. One hill’s fox is trapped, and another loses its way.
But on this hill, the hill of our story, our gnarled apple tree waits and bears the pain of rabbit warmth until one day, as summer gold cools into fall ochres, there is a flash of red fur and a flash of grey gold amidst the sagebrush and plains grass.
There is a Pouncing and a Leaping. There are rabbit screams and blood on the hill. There is contented munching and black stockinged paws scratching to reassert the den to its proper foxy hollow.
And there are generations of foxes forevermore to fill the hollow with warm fur and pointed black noses. And the tree is never alone for very long again.
August 4, 2016 § Leave a comment
Her bones are steel – not the steel that comes only in rigid unyielding, but flexible, bending arcs of ordeal-forged metal. Her heart is passion-fire, sometimes consuming her from the inside out, sometimes fading to low embers from lack of fuel, and sometimes the ideal warmth of hearth-flame.
The easy analogy for this woman would be silk and steel, that core of refined steel with the outer softness of silk – but silk is an orderly thing, spun in crystalline moments by hungry patient spiders, and she is not so controlled. Her skin is not silk – it is living hide, dark and supple, warmed by the heat of her heart and her passion. A raw, primal creature dressed in civilization’s veneer, jewels on a wild thing, a sensual softness overlaying fire and steel and the hint of sharp teeth.
July 7, 2016 § Leave a comment
The bearsark is clad in rough-hewn plate, bronze and iron and copper all dulled and scarred through heavy use. The stories say they go shirtless into battle but this one clothes themselves in metal, holds their shape to human with will and caution. They are armed and armored, solid-standing, watchful-eyed.
(Do you see the marked bear pelt beneath the chipped and tarnished mail? No? Look close. Look careful. Approach slow and steady, and maybe you can glimpse it.)
The bearsark moves with the stiffness of old wounds and healed scars. They move with the coiled power of long training and applied skill. They move with the carefully conserved energy of one who has experienced much and knows not to overspend themselves.
(Do you see the callouses and the scars on the skin beneath the iron plates? Do you see the bloodstained cloth and guarded stance? Look close. Look careful. Approach unarmed and unarmored, and maybe you will be allowed to see.)
They stand watch. They stand guard, and hold the meeting-place for the safety and comfort of others. They smile, readily; the armor is well-worn and rigid but they have a ready friendliness and camaraderie to them, a clap on the shoulder, a hard hug.
The mead-hall shines with firelight and merriment in the long hours of the night, and the bearsark stands at the door facing into the darkness. The mead-hall bustles with music and passion, and the bearsark holds the entrance. They greet and clasp hands with those entering and leaving; they drink a cup now and then; they share a dance here and there; they entertain with a joke or a story that diverts curious stares. They are part, yet apart. They maintain their human shape within their armor and stand steady.
(Have you seen the ferocious glory of the bear-shape, the beauty of claws and jaws and fur? Have you seen the battle-frenzy and the passion-fire? Don’t flinch. Don’t shy away. Have you seen the wide wilderness and smelled deep loam, old bones within the cave, the heavy heady musk of predator and primality?)
They are ferality tightly caged, they are wild and wounded, they are strength held in check, they are a warrior’s pride and disciplined focused power and a tender ferocity. They are taut grace, an immense force under tension and under pressure.
July 7, 2016 § Leave a comment
July 7, 2016 § Leave a comment