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*