Monday, December 29, 2014

First and Last Darkness

The light dims, a cigarette
end ground into glossy old-glass,
Navy ashtray of sky –
stars caught popping, air bubbles
racing from
long dimmed
creation fires.

This moment is a relic,
a museum hum
drum, passed by with a
shrug; visitors
crave electric.

What’s an old sunset
gathering dust?

As if from ghostly measure,
then, the tray is rocked
and balance hung -

Slow shattering, like tinkling water
rushed, screaming
steroided out on megaphones.
The noise wakens the eyes,
first and last awareness:


Posted for Real Toads' Open Link Monday.

Happy news!
I am ridiculously excited that a short story from my Welsh ghost/archaeological novel was chosen as a runner up in the AmeriCymru - West Coast Eisteddfod! Congrats to winner Sally Spedding for "The Fold," an eerie story of rural Welsh life that left me with goose bumps. Kudos to all entrants; the competition was fierce, engaging, and filled with talent. Thanks especially to judge Mike Jenkins (a writer I've long admired) and to Americymru's Ceri Shaw. Diolch!

Friday, December 26, 2014

"What Shadows Follow the Souls of Men?"

Where you walk,
you stretch behind yourself,
shrinking from the light.

When you walk into the light,
you leave some of yourself
behind. What part is that?

Is it your doubts about
moments being connected,
a life of pictures
instead of films?

Will your breath
pull through?

Your need to fidget,
avoid silence?

The way you picture
your own shape and
measure it against
the puzzle you make
of the world?

The way the images
leaving dark snow.
Even that blows away.


Hello, all. Merry meet again. How have 20 days gone by since my last post? Well, it was dissertation proposal crunch time, end of semester grading, holiday traveling among Illinois, Ohio, and Virginia... and some minor crises to deal with. All of these things have been excellent fodder for writing, so keep checking back. I hope your 2014 has been inspiring and enriching, complete with holidays packed with good cheer and company. Stay warm and safe, friends!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bad Vibes & Things Discarded: 55 Worded Works

A Series of 55-Word Shorts & A Poem for Real Toad's Flash - 55 word challenge.

“Other Worlds”

“I have a bad feeling about this.”

You should, I think, watching you roll your thumbs on the joysticks and your Barbarian character simultaneously turn a corner in the dwarf-hewn cave. From the deep, a fiery balrog tears out of the earth, shaking your controller. You drop it.

In your shriek, the virtual becomes real.



Vibrations aren’t always good, she frowned, regretting answering the buzzing phone. She returned to the white linened table, heels clicking on the wood floor, and proffered an apology to her date on the way out, “Gotta go clean up a mess at the lab.” She felt a flash of guilt, but, hey, Bloody rampages qualify.


“Cosmic Mockery”

Vibrations aren’t always good, she frowned, immediately regretting answering the buzzing phone. It was her bank: someone had stolen her credit card. They’d bought $1,000 of baby items: diapers, food, and a crib. She sank to the ground, breath catching in her throat, next to the trash can that still held the pregnancy test, negative.



Red balloon stretches thin -
pinprick, needle-scar puncture.
air escapes slowly, roundness
retains through shrinking
till shriveled it gives up.

In the trash, it meets discarded
apple core, once round and red, too,
now thin, bowed from depletion of
seeds and apple-meat.

Whether one lost
more than the other
they both ended up
the same.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"Llansgi Roots" - West Coast Eisteddfod Competition Submission

(I may have been curiously absent from the blogosphere this month, but for good reason: many writing competition deadlines approach. I've had some pretty crazy coincidences involving one of my favorite annual competitions, hosted by Americymru, which perhaps I shall tell some other day.

This post is a teaser, just the beginning of one of my short stories, "Llansgi Roots." The full story is part of a novel I've been writing since 2008, when several trips to Tintern sparked a trio of interwoven stories. I hope you enjoy this excerpt.)

Llansgi, Wales, 2014
Her bones revealed she was 15 to 19 years old when she died of starvation, and they indicated that she had given birth. Her clothes had turned to dust hundreds of years ago; the archaeologist vowed it was a miracle the bones had been preserved at all, let alone so well. The speculation was that the shed had collapsed, buried her, and acted as a tomb, keeping air and sunlight out. There was sand – sand – on the ground under the skeleton; it must have been gathered elsewhere and stored in the shed. The sand’s presence could be the key, the archaeologist thought, to the skeleton surviving despite time and fate conspiring against her. How wondrous. This perfectly preserved skeleton, if contemporary to the metal jewelry and pottery in the shed with her, was at least 600 years old.

Llansgi, Wales, Late 1400s
She is a stranger. Everyone knows, of course, because everyone has known everyone else their whole lives. Not her; her face is new. She appeared in the village about three months back, in the middle of winter.

She stays in a barn on the edge of the village in exchange for milking the cows. She is skinny, and her clothes are little more than abbey rags. She spurns the advances of the men who proposition her, yet she doesn’t seek a husband. No one knows where she came from, who her family is, or what brought her here. She’s never been seen near the church. The only thing she is ever seen doing is walking.

She walks alone. She walks into the woods surrounding the village, avoiding the road. She collects herbs and flora, offering them to her farmer landlord for part of her rent, who sells them at market for a profit.

Word is that she is only ever seen walking to and from the abbey a few miles away. The village wives swear she is the consort of the fat monk in charge of the food stores. Their husbands reply, “Then she should have more meat on her bones,” which silences the gossip for a few hours.

She’s a stranger, which means that she will always be the focus of speculation.

But I know she doesn’t go to the abbey for rotund Brother Aurelio.

I found her, one day in the snow-swamped forest, before she had gone into the town, before the gossip had started. She was kneeling on the ground, hunched over some twisted root, digging it up. I cleared my throat from a few feet away, and she sort of rolled over, looking up at me.

“Hello,” she said.

“Are you alone?” I asked.

“Do your eyes generally work?”

I looked down at her sitting form, puzzled. “Yes.”

“Then it would appear that I am, no?”

“Do you always talk like this?”

“Only when I’m alone.”

“You’re not from here,” I said.

“You are,” she replied.

“Where do you live?” I asked.

She held up a twisted looking twig. “This root, when ground into a pulp, can help heal even the worst cuts and wounds.”

“How do you know that?” I asked.

“I read it in a book.”

I laughed. There’s no way on God’s green earth that she could read. Only monks can read. Monks and nobles. It’s practically forbidden for anyone else.

She stood up, turned away from me, and started down the deer path toward the abbey. I picked up a root she had dropped. It smelled like damp earth and decay. I flicked it off into the woods.

Later that week, my poaching cousin got skewered by his antlered prey in the woods and the wound turned red and purple and started spewing pus. I went to the abbey and the monks directed me to a lay brother, Bernard, who tends the herb gardens and orchard near the woods. He has only been at this abbey for a few years, but his medicinal knowledge is already respected even by the book-learned monks. When I sought his expertise for my cousin, he spoke little, which was to be expected as the abbey folk are known for their reticence. He ground something into a paste he then handed to me. It smelled of earth and decay, the same rotten root the girl was gathering in the woods.

About a week after that, when I was poaching small game for my cousin’s family during his recovery, in the distance I saw Bernard and the mystery woman. He looked around hurriedly before handing her a thin object. She unrolled it, a scroll, and appeared to scan it. Her lips moved as she appeared to tell him what it contained. When she saw me, she didn’t even try to put it away. Bernard spoke more words then than I’d ever heard him speak.

“Please, she’s all I have. I need her.”

He explained that the monks thought Bernard could read and were slipping him scrolls and requests for tinctures and potions. Only, he couldn’t read. He was just a lay brother good with plants. However, his lord brother’s daughter could read, and his brother’s whole estate had been toppled in a skirmish last year. His niece alone had escaped alive and come here. He knew she couldn’t stay in the abbey forever, but he needed more time to figure things out.

I didn’t say a word, and shortly after that, she moved into the barn at the edge of the village near my own family’s land.

Months have passed since my mysterious neighbor moved in. Spring pokes out late this year, weak, cold, and dry. The farmers fret that conditions are horrible for crops. Food is scarce. Even poachers, like my cousin, can’t find game. The girl’s forest gatherings make up more and more of locals’ diets. No stew can be found without her herbs. I leave my own garden for a few hours every day to help her. She shows me what to look for in the wild, cues like minute color variations in berries that render one edible and one poisonous.

She rarely speaks, but when she does, she says too much, revealing knowledge she should not have. When she gives her finds to the farmer, she tells him too much about what the plants can be paired with and what their healing effects might be.

The other locals are growing suspicious. Could she be the cause of the cold weather, the lack of rain? Didn’t she benefit when their crops failed? God’s punishing them for suffering a nonbeliever. She has the nerve to offer them food when she’s denied them their hard-earned crops.

I tell her of these rumors, beg her to join me at church, to marry me. My wife died several years ago, in childbirth, along with our daughter, and though my garden is small, it yields enough to trade for the things I need. She could be comfortable with me. The gossip would die down.

She pauses at what has become our meeting spot in the woods, in front of two saplings reaching out toward each other. We have started training them, guiding their branches, helping them to lean on each other. I reach for her. She leans into me, her back to my stomach, her small shoulders fitting between my arms.

“Do you see these two trees?” she asks. “We are like them. If we become entangled with each other, our fates will be wrapped up in one another. We shall love, but we shall also lack. I will not be able to continue helping my Uncle learn medicine. I could die in childbirth. And you? You would be a pariah.”

“I don’t care,” I say, and I mean it. She kisses me then, loves me, and it is the death of her.

The cold spring turns into a cold summer which gives way to a bitterly cold fall. Snow freezes the few resilient crops before they can be harvested. The entire village relies on the abbey’s stores to survive; well, the abbey stores and the learned girl’s scavenging. She is remarkably adept at gathering herbs and plants regardless of the seasons; her knowledge grows with the scrolls and books Bernard sneaks to her. Along with her knowledge, her belly grows, too. She is swollen with our child.

“Be my wife,” I implore again. She kisses me and shakes her head no. She will belong to no man. She will accept no help with her lot in life. She will always choose her own path.

I find a twisted piece of scrap metal that the blacksmith, an old friend of mine, lets me keep, and I wrap it with twine to give to my lady, a necklace. It looks like a root.

“Because I understand, and I am yours, just the same,” I say. When she turns away and her fingertips brush her eyes, I pretend not to notice, but I am pleased she is so moved.

When her belly gets so big she can’t bend over to gather plants, she accepts my help. She agrees to let me do the gathering, then to meet me at our tree for me to give her the stuff for the farmer and her uncle. We meet in the early afternoon, when wandering eyes are distracted by grumbling bellies. A large almost-black cat has taken to following her around; since it’s killed the mice and rats, she doesn’t complain. I call him “Brother Aurelio,” on account of the cat’s massive size and lazy manner.

The village whispers about the cat, calling it her familiar, claiming its presence is the proof they need: the girl is evil. An enchanter, a lurer of fine Christian men. The townswomen shake their heads at Aurelio, at their husbands, at me, at anyone who gives the herb-gathering stranger the time of day. She seems not to care, continues treading head-on through this harshest of years. Meets me, every day, through fog and ice and thundercloud, at the two little trees bent like one heart into each other.

One afternoon, she doesn’t come. I run to her barn. There is blood on her bed. No sign of her.

I knock on her landlord’s farmhouse door, but there is no answer. I run into the village, where smoke rises from the center square. Screams and shouts pierce the air. Evening descends and more villagers gather, their desperation threading into chaos.

“Seized by the devil, she was!”

“Bride of Satan! The babe’ll have the mark, of course.”

“She’s already sacrificed it! There was no baby when the miller found her convulsing and covered in blood.”

Dear Lord
, I think. What have they done with her?

“She’s the reason God froze us out! How could He provide us with bountiful harvests with that snake slithering in the grass?”

Mrreee!” an unearthly scream pierces through the commotion. Brother Aurelio, the cat. Someone has grabbed him. He wriggles, bites, claws; someone has tied a rope around his neck. I cannot bear to watch. I turn back into the crowd, searching for any sign of her.

Want to know more? Check out the rest at Americymru's West Coast Eisteddfod.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Of Beautiful Things

My contribution to Collage Obsession’s long hair challenge.
I make old-school collages; just magazines, scissors, and glue. This one was inspired by the painting of Isolde by Gaston Bussiere (from 1911, see below - image courtesy of Wikicommons). I had the woman cut out already, and the magical bookshelves, but I carefully crafted her 2-part crown, the cup, the halo around her, and the four different backgrounds together. I also added some gold shading to give depth to her white dress. What a fun evening!
The colors immediately grabbed me, and the curious sadness in her expression.

I also wanted to take a minute to share two beautiful things that are brightening my week:

The Sleeper and the Spindle, by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell. While the story itself is not my favorite Gaiman piece (a bit clunky and weak on characterization for his writing, in my opinion, but still enjoyable), the book is a thing of beauty, like a gothic illuminated fairy tale.

Deeper Than Pink by Stacy Lynn Mar arrived, and I look forward to opening its bright pink cover and delving into the wonder beneath. Seriously, Stacy's poems can reach right into your chest and give your heart a squeeze. I can't imagine more perfect rush-hour train commute reading; people often try to converse with me, a bright pink poetry book might be the perfect shield.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Flasher and the Fissure

October was a month like me,
a month smoked with wild dreams
welded shut with loss of leaves.
A blazing month that dropped its cloak.
thus filled with gaping holes.

(How time flies! It hardly seems right to welcome November without bidding October adieu. October was a tough month. It brought death. It held lots of stress. But it also knew joy. And now I greet November the only way I can: one breath at a time, with a commitment to appreciate my blessings.)

November cuts into the ground,
cold and sharp and deeper down.
Therein lies the treasure here: cold claws
remove the gold, oil, smoldering belly of fire.
Rise, repeat; hurry! The snaggle-toothed Snow King is coming.
We must draw up what he will covet. Pull it up! Higher! Higher!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Squeaky Wheels

The market was miles away
and fleeing further, but the
night was creeping clumsily on.

one foot in front of the other

in a weekly ritual, his boots were worn
right through, right through the green
moss you could see his trail through
the squishy known unknown.

week after week, year after year,
he never saw a soul

through barrow and bog
he pushed his cart, the thump
of the wheels lamenting
motion. which is why he
noticed the absence of sound
for a heartbeat.
silence is an incantation,
invocation. she comes
in it.

she is alabaster,
a sculpture
carved of wind
and ice. he closes his eyes, inhales
the apparition – a sacrifice in smoke –
he smells the veil thinning between the worlds

he shivers with the
bogbreath, the breeze
all hot and cold. it sparks
all around him, an
unseen carnal force.

her arms caress
his wrinkled hands

he lets go the handle
of his cart,
reaches out to her

but she, like him,
is no more here

there is only
the cart

its wheels
the moment
before it

(For a prompt at Real Toads: Ghost stories using at least 3 of these words: fairy, portal, sacrifice, feast, smoke, winter, slaughter, spirit, veil, ritual, trick, & disguise.

I used: ritual, veil, sacrifice, & smoke, I think. Enjoy, and good night!)

Monday, October 20, 2014

From When Our Moon Became a Sun

Can you feel the fire inside you?
Forget it for tonight. Mask it with
the world around, feed it with your
flight. Lanterns swerve like fairy lights,
dodging sober shadows; matches strike.

sparklers sing. cigarettes light.

Somebodies stroll arm in arm, gaze at stars,
cry or laugh, walk alone, sip the past, we all
sink dark into our minds. We crave, we itch,
anticipate: sharpest flints that conflagrate.

Our signals smoke, swarm through
city loops. Round the concrete
paths and blocks, boxes
glass and moving
trucks, round the trees
pruned in their beds,
round the sky to
red smog wed.

Zaps run through
our beating blood,
flooding veins and bursting walls,
building lacks of barriers,

seeking: freedom, found
away. out of body, faint
indeed, branded still, scorches fade
into wild. woods. The edge-of-the-city fox
knows all, knows fall, its saffron leaves,
the pubs of candied corn and trail of acorn orbs.
The fox knows when the moon will rise,
it can place the smell of the harkening skies -
though time makes no scent. *Sniff.*

The fox smells the city air and finds
scents that make no sense. The moon within
the smoke, within the dreams, within
the humans, lies asleep. The Equinox
reduced to itchy patches, ancient,
embered chambers in their raw meaty hearts, balanced by
the choking blood, the steady beat, the broken glowing
from the ill-flamed furnace fanning
the forgotten memory:

the first fire lit by human hands, the
howl of triumph, ravenous flash of the flames
of knowledge leaping up. The world shifts drunk
under the gaze of this smoke-glazed moon, the selfsame
moon that reigned the night, the god of dark binding
humans blind. The selfsame humans with their restless hands,
blistered, fumbling in the dark, throwing out the rope,
lassoing the moon in the name of itchy, aching hope.

lassoed, tamed, and fought against:
the night, a brave new dawn.

(This poem was inspired by Pink.Girl.Ink.'s "Warning the Stars" prompt. The prompt's pretty sweet. Word? Word! Well, word-le. Wordle: it's a thing. Find out what at Pink.Girl.Ink!

Anywho, the prompt resonated with my muse. Images of electric light, magical illuminated moments contrasted to the mystique of night not clothed in manufactured light. A recent camping trip inspired me to contemplate darkness, grateful both for the opportunity to witness a wild night and for the ability to blot it out. There was some ensuing guilt and awe for what humankind has accomplished, and fear and hope for what's to come.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

For the love of...

Art, Books, and Kids

This summer I worked in the children's department of my local library. Now, this library is pretty much the hub of the community, so it looks nice, has caring employees, and some pretty impressive technology. The children's department alone could fit two of my entire hometown library in it, and it has a pirate ship, two gerbils, a treehouse, and hands-on activities. I was lucky enough that when I had to leave, they let me decorate the Storytime windows.

Because of time limitations, I used The Rasterbator (imagine explaining that Website title to curious and insistent adolescent boys who want to use the program to make their own posters) for the bus and some of the background foliage. Most plant and wildlife is local to Illinois, and I added a warning about poison ivy and oak. It's only been a few months since these windows went up, but, man, it only feels like a day. That's autumn, for you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Falling for Autumn

"Sole Cicada"

(One of my newer shadow boxes, called "Sweeping of Dreams")

both ways.

The trees clicked,
and I thought if I
could just listen
hard enough
I might
some archetypal

I found it at my feet,
the poor cicada,
between death and life

the rippling
the ambered
ready to

Those claws like pincers
tiring, desperate
grappling hooks pulling
up, up, over, down
up - anywhere,
because all the climbing is
about is

Must hold on
to let go.

There must have been
a RIPping noise
but I only saw
a giant
from a
sandy shell,
black mirror eyes
no longer writhing

and then, there! growing, stretching
shuffling wet green wings
sailing in the wind.

The shell remains,

They are fallen


In the new-found silence,
autumn has come.

(This poem may be a repost, I'm not sure. If it is, it's been a while! I found this old poem recently. As I read it through, connecting with its transformative crunch, I remember disliking it for a very long time. It didn't flow right, it didn't sit right... You know how it goes. Funny how different poems resonate at different times. This one has me almost-smiling now. My next post will also be transformation themed - but much more visual. Enjoy!)

Friday, October 3, 2014

"The Imps of St. Martin's Land"

Ah, yes, they tell me I was green
when they found me, me and my brother,
down by the wolfpit. We had passed our
tenth years, mangled as that hole in the ground,
thorny and worn and hungry. Ravenous.
Well, me (and my brother)
had brown hair and ten toes, ten little fingers
and buttony noses. We were perfect

…except for our skin.
Green, green as sin.

“Imps!” they called us,
but we didn’t know. Back then,
our tongues were still our own.
I can’t remember any of that old, sweet
language now, just the new harsh words,
their meaning forced down our lobes.
We heard the worst things, then.

Imps and devils, spirits, elves,
bringers of bad fortune, foes,
bad omens,
groans. Angry glares.
Or worse, the pointed silence
the absence of kindness,
meanness, any –ness at all.

The stillness stretches
into a column, rising,
a column of shadows, moving:
a million moths whispering up,
up to the roof, domed stone. A
real place. A place I’ve been. My
fingertips trace the pillar, dimpled cold.
St. Martin’s Land. My home. My home!

My brother and I grew up there,
our walls the womb of earth itself.
We all lived here, my brother, my
mother, my father, the others.
We lit fires in those pits, and went swimming
down that cavern. We sang each other
stories, danced, filled the village with laugh-
ter, laughter, laughter so we never saw the sun, so
we never had a day. We had our own
soothing words, language of touch, each other’s hands
crafting nets, weaving baskets, scavenging,
cooking herb pies, catching fish, healing, hunting
courage. Were we green? I don’t remember.
I remember the glow of the fungus at night
and the glint of the cavepearls in the fire’s
dying light. I remember the smell of the fur
that’s my bed. I remember my brother,
his woolly head, his dank brown breath
wisps, his smile a crooked line of bright.

Of course, he’s dead. They took away
his dancing, then his song, then his smile.
They took away the words that painted
his world. How could he go on?
As the green drained from his skin,
he clutched my hand, pink on pink,
and in usurper’s tongue exhaled:
“Back to St. Martin’s Land!”

(This is from a prompt over at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads; looking at images of caves, I was reminded of the 12th century old tale I read about today: two green children are found near Woolpit, UK, speaking a language no one can understand. They are raised, and they turn pink, and the brother dies. Later, the girl tells of the great, underground St. Martin's Land, where everyone was green. Wikipedia mentions some interesting theories of why children inspiring the story might have been green.)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Closing the Divide

The end of times
is inevitable,
but I was not expecting
it to stop.

The clock.

It wasn’t just my heart,
breath clinging
half within – half without.
It was the glinty green fly
diving toward the patch of grass.
It was the styro coffee cup
cast down, about to clash with
a skateboarder – whose eyes
were scrunched mid-sneeze.
It was the cloud passing the sun,
the shadow, sudden
sick purple as a prune.


My ears.
How loud the heartbeats,
like sirens, the sudden breaking
of barriers,

the flash of blue between our
eyes, the call of the ordinary wild:

the scrunch and buzz,
the splash between the
darkest end of time
and the blistering breach
of the beginning.

(And so ends Splashing the Divide.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Running Away, Storybook Style

“Spinning Callouses”

Here nor there,
the music hangs,
notes nailed to
thin air. The road
connects two ends,
I sit at home with
my spinning wheel.

Frayed and spun
like bloodstained
straw, I wĪnd my
wheel and weave
my will…

I weave my will
and wĪnd my mind
around the steeled
walls and climb
the turrets
to the naked wind,
castle high and current fixed.

I leave behind
wild eyes, whispered prayers,
sacred notes of silence. Fire!
Shrieks, the helling of the holy – smoke.

I twill steel and iron words
into a bridge of shallow shadows.
Washed, unraveled, threads of ash and green.

Spin the gown and in it
find the doorway through
the floor, well worn, that
leads to silver, gold, and song

– bring the dance shoes you don’t love;
they’ll be dead by dawn.

Dance the weaver’s age old
thrum, tie the threads together,
write the floor you’re dancing on,
move your ankles faster, feel the floor
grow steam and swell, a bursting of
the underwell. Move through you,
move through me, the motions
not our own but pulled by well-stung
strings of ecstasy.

in the
I look out
at the club with bouncing walls, take in
the church with chiming bells. There is
nothing new, nothing old, nothing
but sweat and prayer.

Nothing but calloused feet and hands,
and a closet short shoes, one pair.

(This poem is a re-imagining of a different poem from last year. It seemed to fit this collage, a musing on the world and escape, from Splashing the Divide. It's one of the last pages of this collage book. But that's OK. I have a lot of poems, short stories, and artwork to post.

As always, thanks for dropping by, and I hope you enjoyed these little snippets of my mind's wanderings.)

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Forgiveness and Shame

Words don't come easy,
thinking, forgiving.
I don't blame what you said.
I love you.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pieces of Perfection

Right now, from where I'm sitting, what's my idea of the perfect moment?

You can hardly see the bark or grass for the aging, jewel-crusted leaves. You approach the tree, glance around, sit. Back melding perfectly with the bark, you settle, watch twilight creep up on the world, watch the world whir along. Your hands absorb the warmth of a steaming cuppa Earl Grey, sweet and clouded with milk.

"The night is aging as the sun warms your face," lyrics from Alkaline Trio's "Blue Carolina," wafting through your head.

"And a song in my head that burns so good on my tongue."

I smile.

(more pages from my Splashing the Divide collage journal.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Smoked to Perfection

("Smoked to Perfection" from my Splashing the Divide collage book)

Welcome to Wonderland! This tribute to my childhood favorites - Alice, the caterpillar, and good ol' Chessie (whose smile I drew on with Sharpie) - comes alongside a whole summer of my returning to Alice. There was American McGee's twisted Alice game, Tim Burton's film version and the TV movie Alice (with my favorite Mad Hatter portrayed by Andrew Lee Potts), AG Howard's Splintered and Unhinged, and the classic itself. For the last year, I've been developing my own reimagined Alice, in a nightmare world of archaeology and world mythology... And, of course, Alice art surrounds me in my home.

(One of my favorite artists, Robert Walker, made this print that's hanging in my hallway)

Alice may surround me, but she is a fitful muse. When she inspires, I tend to like the work, like this one:

“Wrinkled Path to Wonderland”

She wore blue silk
the night the sky bled
red as dawn, she walked
among the stones, the grass. The wind
chimed in her wake.

It was a wrinkled path
to the Unknown, only in darkness
shaped, and the absence of sound.
A thought was sewn
into impressionable
pre-sleep crevices. The moon fell,
a branded tear, unfinished tune,
haunting the edges of slate lake
where she painted rainbows
with her toes
in the salted water.

From there, she chased
crooked kittens, caught blue
caterpillars, grew-shrank/
ate two-sided mushrooms,
and swept delicate tea sets askew.

She woke facing herself,
a rippling mirror
taunting the sinews of
memory, stroking them
to sleep. Settling in,
the darkness black,
the walls thick,
the world a box

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Red Dragon

When the cold bare knuckles of fall beat at the windows, before the dust-warm heaters came on, the bathroom was the warmest place to be. I would slip from my room, grab a few catalogs, and sit with my back against the closed door, half within a loose tent of blanket. There, I gazed at pictures of the worlds of my dreams. Design Toscano was one of my favorites - it had dragons, unicorns, mermaids, fairies - the whole shebang. I dreamed of them, of how big they'd be, what emotions I could attribute to them, how their eyes betrayed their histories. Ever since, I've collected knick-knacks that glimmer with untold stories.

For years as an adult, I eyed the Dragon of Stonebridge Castle wall sculpture. What I saw was not the picture in the catalog (see below):

What I saw in my mind was a red dragon, as proud as the Welsh dragon, as powerful as Smaug, and scaled like a river of fire and blood.

I bought the sculpture, telling myself I would bring out its inner palette...
which I finally did.

Here's the result:

Soon after, my partner added a fun surprise!

Monday, September 22, 2014

100th Post: Splashing the Divide's "Womanhood"

Woo hoo! Perhaps it is a minor marker, but reaching the 100th post feels pretty wonderful. I hope this site strikes something - a chord, a wall, a steel drum; that these words form a conduit, the spark of feeling a pulse again, the vibes beating outward, transforming to conform to the contours of each ear. Thank you for listening... with your eyes, of course.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

(reaching for) the truce

Sweet pill:
he takes it straight
and passes on.
His ex-wife will be with us shortly.

long mirrored walls
he's painstakingly crafted.

All Right has fallen ill.

A white towel drops.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"The Triumph of Silence"

at first
There Is No Sound
stretches till
its sides are wedged
against the walls,

the promise of a scream
bursting the seams
of place

raging, broadsword drawn -
fell swoops!

the triumph of silence:
the harbinger-knot
lodged in the throat,
a walk on my grave.

(2005-2014 ink doodle, Dianne Selden)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Tricks of Light and Shadow"

(Image by Mordecaidesign)

He wears a tall hat,
white gloves wield
a black wand.
He wears a cape,
satin lined red.

The kohl round his eyes
swirls and time stands still.
He pulls all the wondrous
usuals – white bird from
his hat, neverending scarves,
quarters from ears, box sawed in
half, … flowers, and all that …

what is the
magician like
when all the
tricks go dark?
When no flick’ring
shadows cast eyes afar?
When hat comes off,
and doves drop dead inside,
and scarves get runny snags,
and saws swivel too far to the right?
Without the cape and
snowy gloves, what
part of him is left?

He is no Merlin,
his illusions no magic,
he weaves shadows through
light. He is as tired
as my bones
and he craves
wonder, too.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pain Tracks

...lost track of
hours or days
long moments when pain
is naked, a chilled bludgeoning.
Come, lie down.
Curl up.

Lift -
it's over.

Loud echoes
leave an imprint in the air,
a multi-coloured kite.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Fill in the Blank

There's time to tear down, time to create-
time enough to shape the world.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Splashing the Divide: New Collage Book

For show
For tell -
these are for naught.

The flow of thought
if pure and clear
reveals the soulspring
in all its gears,
the inner spark
and all its dark
that leads the way
through years.

Welcome to my newest completed collage book, Splashing the Divide. Collages, found poems, and general reflections - page by page- are on their way. Delightful project from the moment I sewed the cardboard covers and inner pages (hand-dyed with coffee, tea, herbs, and spices) together to when I completed the last collage, completely out of order.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Today's Poem: An Older Me to a Younger You

I met you when I
owned the grass,
the bricks, the paths
we walked. I, me, and mine,
all. When I saw your
eyebrow raise, I frowned and
thought, “What a drag.”

Years spun nets,
suns and moons fled upon the backs of
the seasons: yellow, green, golden, white.

The world taught me
that It is all of us, that
we, together, are the world. A path
is simply tread by all;
a brick, a common pool.
The grass is God’s and God’s alone,
as is the sky, and time.

The young blaze brands:
I, me, my, mine. I see the world labeled,
shake my head and
feel - wiser, old, a brimming crone,
but new and wet and young, too,
moreso now than then.

I see your eyebrow wiggle now,
it is my tongue, I
mirror it
with an added twist
of wistful lips,
a heart filled
with the need to
be filled,
to claim nothing.

Somewhere in that
heartbeat, we
cross paths

Sweeper of Days

This hour is a scraggly broom
sweeping away the dust
scraps and broken songs
of the day.

The hearth is warm,
glowing, and inviting like a home
should be- the place
to start from - to return to:
the dry Welcome mat
at the end of damp grass,
the brink of wildflowers and fireflies.

Red rusted gate
shuts out the clock;
here, it’s always early
afternoon in orange-tinted autumn,
brazenly blazing, "I am here!"
illuminated by
stars strung like cobwebs.

It is the witching
bristles scrape against the wall,
sweeping another day
another place
another memory.
Another beginning, now.

(This is an old poem, from 2008 or 2009 tinkered with, resurrected... but the broom never quite left my mind. Soon, I will post images - collages, craft projects, colorful visuals that are so intermingled with my words. I have a few short stories, too, to post. And, of course, an endless supply of poems. This summer is a cool, dark well of words - I perch on the stones, lean in, and listen.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer Nights

Wine tinkered nights
fall prey to
the swayings of the moon.

There is a hiccup
and teacup giggling
as a foot darts
in a compulsive path,
a circle dance
in a sort-of square,
amidst other
wanton whims.

I see what you see -

I sense
the divine
in a salted tide
churning at dawn –

I sense
us whirling
into the wide
whispers, celestial
pawns spinning
in beautiful,
in a waltz of
and wind
and wants.

Once upon a time,
a new moon

We howl,
and it’s

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fluttering Pages

F. Scott Fitzgerald was
a wild-hearted man
with tame eyebrows. His
shadowed eyes eclipsed
by sharp lines of his nose,
the bloated thump-thump from his
smooth chest ticked the moments
in his lovers’ ears.

A wild-hearted man
seeks a wilder-hearted mate.

He is
destined to be scorned by
glass-box hearts
and mothball ears
and gloves made of
still-furred skins.

He is destined to be scorned
by me.

I was
too bad to be good
and too good to be true

made-up girl
with talons and fangs
with the surest smile
you ever did see -
A Cathy, specter of spirit upon the moor
and Alice perched on the fluff of mush
room where Stella can still scream, flushed.

(if I had been real,
I would have had ears
I would have had eyes
I would have been wise.
I would have loved unabashed,
dismantled our masks
tattooed your heart
on my skin o’er my ribs,
my talisman,
a war medal

And then
I would have started
all over again.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Man in the Moon

Sometimes, just like in Diane Duane’s So You Want to be a Wizard, a book jumps from the shelf and snags you. What recently snagged me, like a nibble on my finger: The Man in the Moon by William Joyce.

With magically dazzling and opulent illustrations, the story is engaging (satisfying even for grown-ups). It begins in a sort of Space Exploration Golden Age, when all was right with the world and grand ships traversed the galaxy. Not to give too much away, the Man in the Moon cares deeply for earth’s children and works to make the world better for them, even in the face of great darkness.

The Man in the Moon
marked the first of an entire Guardians series Joyce had been working on for 25 years. The stories he told his children sparked into flame, becoming an intricate, consuming world. And so Joyce wrote and illustrated a combination of picture books and chapter books to tell the stories of the Guardians of Childhood.

I was so excited about the book that I recommended it to my cousins, who looked at each other with squiggly eyebrows and asked, “Doesn’t that sound like the movie we watched? Rise of the Guardians?”

And it did.

So the next day at the library, I checked the “R” section of the Children’s DVDs. Sure enough, the front cover of the DVD case depicted the characters introduced at the end of Joyce’s book, The Man in the Moon. I watched it as soon as I got home.

I was soon a little disoriented, however, because (*Spoiler Alert!*) the nightmare-causing villain, Pitch Black was sort-of vanquished in the book, I thought… so why has he returned? (*End Spoiler.)

I was worried that perhaps the author had been cast aside in favor of the show-biz bureaucracy, but it seems he was an executive producer (along with Guillarmo del Toro) and Joyce’s Guardian books (including Man in the Moon) were given credit.

The movie was even dedicated to Mary Katherine Joyce, his daughter, who died at the brink of adulthood of a brain tumor. The Guardians books are based on the stories he told her throughout her childhood.

Even without the heart-rendering personal narrative behind the books, I was hooked the moment The Man in the Moon touched my finger. I’ve since read the picture book The Sandman: The Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie (which was beautiful but less substantive than The Man in the Moon) and have scribbled the other Guardians of Childhood books on my summer must-read list.

I shall leave you with Jack from the film’s parting wisdom: “So when the moon tells you something, believe it.” Even if the moon is a snagging book. Or a nagging voice in your mind.*

*I suppose if you’re more cynical, you’ll say this is nonsense. But even if that were true, at least nonsense provokes, stimulates, inspires. It’s the Unknown, and it can be filled with adventures.

(Hello, friends, and how the time has flown. The past month brought transformation and transition. In a way, I suppose I was off gathering inspiration, gaining experience, soaking in the world, and settling back into my bones. What a lovely summer it is!)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Where the Words Went

Inspiring Artwork: The Storybook by Catrin Welz-Stein

(Catrin has a great Website that provides endless, fantastic surreal browsing experience.)

I scour one after the other
each page
looking for a fingerprint,
a word, a tear,
a sigh(n).

The script
in sudden
Where have all the words gone?

They seemed so important
yet when I had them,
they died on the tip
of my tongue or took
dust moats as sails
brandishing swords
targeting onwards,
drawn to the hum-thrum
of my eardrum.

I swat them away,
keep looking
in the old places,
brittled pages.

Around me, the lost
words break loose,
a deluge –

I am caught in the storm
of invisible droves,
flashing letters,
falling words,
ghost whispers
twisted in a gale.

They strike like rain,
my eyes blind and
the fevered search

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Last Night of the Earth

It is the last night of the earth,
Last year, glaciers melted and the world shrank.
There were Ice Ages and reigns of fire
and more history then.

If it is to end, again,
let it end like any other,
looking in from these
parapet peepholes
at these leaking stone walls
flowing amber curtains
cheap green carpet
gum-gucked furniture

I scrawled my name in blood across this place.

Tonight, I tear it down
brick by brick
ready to build again.

(Red-tinted Caerphilly Castle, Wales, 2008)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Young Medusa

Each raindrop swoops at my face
pecks at the powder, the paint
My skin peels
I reach to hide myself, my fingers frantic
I must mask this stranger’s face.
What passersby must ponder at this crumbling statue:
a remnant of some ancient Other
a mummy unwrapping, a spawn of Hephaestos
in the rain.

My apologies for the delay, friends. It's been finals week (proctoring exams and helping 50 freshman not freak out is wonderfully full time work), and I'm taking my prelim exams - 3 8-hour-long tests - eek!- starting next week! I might be posting intermittently this month. .. also, the picture is one I took in Budapest, 2008, a few months before I wrote this poem.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Heroism, Apart

The most eccentric characters may be
sleepwalkers through the digital experience
(a quick spiritual, physical fix
a bitter pill
the music of machine dreams)

A life spent on the external world
feels metallic

Imagine what it must be like without words

Reawaken something heroic:
begin a new story
take your dreams.


THE END of my Collage Journal, MOONBEAM DREAMS.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Facing the World

I can be a dreamer, but today I
face the things I dread:
the heart
the fist.

We are travelers in search of
starry nights,
some great adventure
in the lamplight.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Lost Lures: A Disillusionment in Three Parts

Only three collage poems remain from my Moonbeam Dreams journal! Enjoy this one:

The world is full of magical places:
sacred ground
caught between good and evil.
If I could retreat
and be alone
but not isolated
And be alone
without sacrificing,
I would.
I've lost the magic lure
of the kingdoms
of my imagination.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

sketch sketch sketch sketch...

... ... ... ... ... Where the tree grows... ... ... ... ... ...and where the wind blows. ... ... ... ...

A few of my old sketches that seem to capture today, too. Enjoy! -Dianne