Stones, Echoes, Skulls

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!          
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!   
Weave a circle round him thrice,      
And close your eyes with holy dread,          
For he on honey-dew hath fed,        
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
~ Kubla Khan, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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“I lost the skull charm three years ago, Grandmother. But there is nothing to worry about. I promise.”

Her eyes grew wide and shiny, so he added a smile to the fib. “Grandmother, there are no echoes. There have never been. I feel a little silly telling you this, but I never really heard them. Or saw anything. I used to wear the charm to bed because it made you happy. That’s all.”

She shook her head and began to fade, slowly gliding backwards towards the opened window, as if pulled by a force she couldn’t control.

“Grandmother? Don’t leave like that. Don’t be upset. I… it’s just that…” He knew he had to tell her, but the lie had gone for so long. He was sure that if he refused to believe in them, they would just go… But their screams just got louder and closer, and her voice faded. “Grandmother, I threw it away. The skull charm, I buried it.”

Her translucent features crumpled, phantom tears filled the wrinkles that cracked her youth. The unseen pulled on her, ripping off her clothes. Before her skin was also torn, the lips of his grandmother’s spirit mouthed: Stones, stones, stones…

It was the last time he saw her, years ago, when the dead only whispered from the shadows. The first echoes began to take shape the night he turned twenty-one. He went back for the skull charm, but the earth had eaten the protection. He returned home with hands and pockets full of stones.

Placing the rocks around him didn’t quiet the dead, but it kept their skulls from smothering him into madness. Some nights, when he fell asleep between books and stones, he could hear the echoes of his grandmother’s warnings: Beware, beware…

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a wee note…
– First published in 2014. This wee tale was born while a motif from my AlmaMia Cienfuegos world, my favorite bit from Kubla Khan and the illustration below dance in my head. I’m linking to Prompt Nights – Let’s gather around for some ghost stories (Sanaa, thanks so much for helping me revive my oldies).

Poet's Sleep, by Chang Houg Ahn“Poet’s Sleep”, by Chang Houg Ahn

Just Truth, Teeth, and Wings

She was crafted from hammered pain—bones smelted out of hurt ore, heart set afire, dipped in frigid blood and torrid tears until her soul screamed adamantium into armor around her reality. Her night-stories swarmed with what most minds believed belonged to the wrong lived. Death licked her skin, danced with her mind, wrung pearls out of her eyes… wanting her to wish for it.

Under today’s dark moon and grinning sun, she wraps wild verses around the hardness of her all. Her lived hand takes a lie—once carved on her backbone—and shapes it into poems. She lets go not of memories full of broken bones and bloodied howls. She plants them in the soil soothing the flames burning out of her skin. She consumes the hurt, births energy out of old pains. Death still speaks to her, but there is no hunger in The Reaper’s words… just truth, teeth, and wings.

born on fire,
she feeds on summer
and blazes

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the (not so) wee notes…
Adamantium: a fictional metal alloy… in American comic books published by Marvel Comics, and is best known as the substance bonded to the character Wolverine’s skeleton and claws.
– “wrapped in verses”, I stole the phrase from Brendan’s quoting of John Hollander’s views about how Dante was able to get through his Inferno.
– Linked to Expanding Bits of Fiction and Poetry into Haibun, 11… also to Poets United (Poetry Pantry, 201), the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads, Sunday Mini-Challenge: Harrowing and Hallowed (“write about something that is both harrowing and hallowed. Rough up an experience with that dreadful harrow then look at it in the opposite way, the lair of death becomes a golden stair”). I based my poem on AlmaMia Cienfuegos, the main character of a short story collection that shares her name.

AlmaMia Cienfuegos and Other Stories-Facebookfrom the cover of AlmaMia Cienfuegos and Other Stories, by Magaly Guerrero
(painted to fiery life by Michelle Kennedy)
*Shelle, you rocketh very mucho*

It’s the Might Have Beens that Get You…

“Oh, it’s the might have beens that get you
when you’re old,
when the weeks fly by so fast
and the story’s mostly told.”
~ Sherry Blue Sky

Two months or so ago, an artist friend of mine lost the final battle against a chronic illness that had been part of her life for some time. A week before she died, she emailed me to commission farewell poems for each of her children. I had been very busy with hospital visits and with trying not to puke my guts out… so I didn’t open the email until several days after her death.

I was heartbroken, very hurt because I couldn’t give her that last bit. I didn’t know what to do. After discussing my feelings with my Piano Man and a couple of friends, I decided to use the limited information I had to write the poems. I sent them to her children with a copy of her email… and with my apologies for not having been there for their mom when she needed me.

I had never met (or spoken to) any of her children, so I was a bit anxious about their response. My apprehension didn’t last long. They replied right away, and thanked me for the gesture. They explained that although their mom knew her condition was terminal, no one foresaw the end would come as quickly as it did. So she never had a chance to say goodbye.

I’m not a crier, my Wicked Luvs, but there were a few lines from my late friend’s email that ripped tears out of places I didn’t know could cry. She wrote, “I’m frightened, Maga. The doc says I’ve lots of time but I think he’s wrong. I’ve wasted much time trying to stay honest to my plans. I should’ve changed things years ago. Now I know there’s lots I won’t have time to do.”

Don’t panic, my Luvs. I’m not dying—at least not any faster than anyone else is. But my friend’s words made me think about my own approach to life, to being ill, and to planning. For instance, before I got sick, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my writing: I would publish a few stories and novellas on my own, then approach traditional publishers with my longer works.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know my plans have been seriously amended more than thrice. In the original version, the first AlmaMia Cienfuegos novel would be trying to find its way into the world in 2015. Then there would be a dark urban fantasy novel, and more short stories… And with the kind of teeth baring stubbornness that few people can survive and stay sane, I’ve been coming up with ways to stick to those plans.

Right before April, as I reread my friend’s email, I decided that I was done twisting my life in order to force it into a mold that is no longer mine. I wanted to visit the Dominican Republic, and research the landscape, before I finished the AlmaMia Cienfuegos novel. The book is fiction, but I wanted the setting to be as true as possible. My GI issues put an indefinite hold on those plans. Memory, the Muse and the seat of my pants shall have to do the work. It might be more fun. I must (and I will) do what makes me happiest now, and the rest shall come when it comes.

The following are some of the changes that will affect my blogging ways:
– I will blog thrice a week—Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays—unless a blog event entices me to cheat. Tuesdays will be for storytelling (fiction and creative nonfiction), for writing updates, and for bits of witchy living (posts like this one). Fridays will be for news, the occasional review, and for the re-posting of tales previously published on my former blog. Saturdays will be for poetry.

– I shall continue Expanding Bits of Fiction and Poetry into Haibun, but there won’t be regular posts asking you to help me pick the one you like best. My choices will be based on how a particular poem bit fits the prompt(s) offered by the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads, dVerse, Prompt Nights… or on pure whim. Yep, I’m super wicked and selfish to the bone. 😀

– Next year, Dark Fiction for the Cruellest Month will be a one-prompt event. The same applies to Witches in Fiction, starting this year—just one prompt, which will stay open for about 5 days.

– While I work on writing for commercial publication, I will satisfy my sharing fancies by posting Stories of Yamasá (super short creative nonfiction about growing up in the Dominican Republic, which I hope will help with my AlmaMia Cienfuegos research, since the novel is set in my homeland); and Tales of the Gashlycrumb Tinies (in which I craft totally unauthorized stories about some of Edward Gorey’s deliciously creepy children).

So… this is the many-times-revised plan, my Wicked Luvs. Let’s see (read?) how it goes.

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a not so random note: to he who told me “You must use your time for doing things more beneficial to others than to yourself like The Lord intended”, I wish to say that “You must go and smoke a bag of rotten toes.” See? Trying to make other people do what you believe is right for them is distasteful… and mighty stinky.

Oh yes, and I cut my hair very short. I’m ready for surgeries, for summer heat, and for ample grinning. The “might have beens” won’t get me (at least not all of them), if I can help it. 😉

Magaly Guerrero, May 2016