face pressed to your breast
I could weep myself empty
and still be fulfilled
- – -
you are my altar
at your feet I kneel and weep
face pressed to your breast
I could weep myself empty
and still be fulfilled
- – -
you are my altar
at your feet I kneel and weep
beware opening locked doors
every name’s a key
Come and hibernate with me, my love, let us dig our den and curl together, arms and legs entangled, breast to breast, breathing in each others’ warm exhalations. We will cover ourselves over with autumn leaves and slumber there as the snow falls to bury us deep, our heartbeats a lullaby in the dark. Above our nestled bodies the sky will turn and turn, the moon dance through its phases, and as we dream the winter will encase the world in ice and melt free. Spring’s first tentative rays will warm our blanket of leaves and yawning we will crawl forth, hair wild and nails long, to walk hand in hand through the waking forest.
take my bandage words
one for every wound you bear
sweet salve for your burns
my palm on your cheek
why can’t this be making love?
Love grows like a wild thing in my chest and oft threatens to break free from its cradle of flesh and bone, ribs creaking as they bend against the pressure of passion, the swell of the ocean against the seawall, and sometimes I long to succumb to this tidal push, crack open my breast, let the sonnets and psalms spill forth and sweep us both up, out, away until we float on strange seas below strange skies.
I wasn’t vying for your attention; I just needed you to notice me. I needed you to need me to notice you. I needed you to see I was crumbling at the edges and couldn’t help myself, didn’t know how to hold together, how to show my true intentions or explain this longing like madness. I didn’t want to lock myself in a tower, but I needed you to be willing to scale the wall of thorns anyway. See through my façade. Draw me in from the rain. Take me away from myself. I needed you to need to rescue me.
No, no, don’t pull away from me; don’t let distance and silence fade me to yet another ghost trailing in your wake, a mere poltergeist knocking in the night. I would be greater and more terrible than any of your specters. I would shake chains of music, howl sonnets, weep lullabies. My fingers would claw memories in the wallpaper. Please, look my way, remember me, don’t leave me here in the past to rot and disperse. You need me. I need you.
dawn’s light worships you
cups your face in golden hands
my earthbound goddess
Dreamer, fear no more. I am virgin flesh, soft and pale as milk, yet these wicked thorns draw no ruby blood, leave no welts or lines, for they part at my command. The briar cage yields to this brave, foolhardy young knight who bears a pen to play the part of sword. Dreamer, sleep no more. You who have forgotten how to breathe, I will give my breath. You who have forgotten how to move, I will give my heartbeat. You who have forgotten how to wake, I will break this ensorcelled slumber with a kiss. Dreamer, mourn no more. You are not dead. You are not gone or forgotten. You are only dreaming, a goddess unknown to herself. But I know you, and I love you, and I will wake you and take you from this place.
Lay down your head, my love. Close your eyes. Leave your worries and fears behind; take your spirit away from this place for a few heartbeats at least. Hear not the low roar of traffic, but the soft susurration of waves along the shore. Taste not the unsatisfying dinner, but the crisp salt tang of a Pacific autumn. Feel not worn blankets or broken springs, but the cool breeze toying with your hair, tugging at your clothes. And see not the walls, the city, the limitations all around you, but the gray ocean, the gray horizon, the weathered cabin nestled against dune grass and hunched pines. This place isn’t ours just yet, though it can be. It will be. So for the time being allow yourself to imagine these things: the driftwood steps leading from shifting beach to sturdy land; the creaking porch boards welcoming you home; the sweet spiced candles drawing you inside. Imagine my waiting arms and the cup of tea, thick with milk and honey, that I press into your hand. You are safe here. We are together here. Let this place be our haven, if only in dreams and longings. For now, at least, it’s something.
I have seen the muse
her sunlit eyes like copper
smile sweet, honey rich
I have heard the muse
voice caressing as velvet
intimate as silk
I have touched the muse
worshipped bronze skin with my lips
I have known the muse
her heart, her scars, her longings
and found her perfect
How is this possible? I have been writing to you for years, for an eternity, and now that I have found you I have no words to capture your true meaning? Have you so stolen my breath that I cannot fill my chest enough to speak? Does my heart pound so loudly I cannot hear my own thoughts, let alone assemble them into something sensible and worthy? You are the goddess in my arms; the guardian at my side; the supplicant at my feet; the wolf at my door whom I have welcomed in to eat at my table and rest at my hearth. I could weep for the beautiful fluidity of identity when everything we were and are and could be come crashing together like waves against the shore. And in a universe where essence can neither be created nor destroyed, every form we assume is a true rendering of you, me, us.
Have I fallen down the rabbit hole?
Have I stepped inside the toadstool ring?
Have I been pulled into the world beyond the mirror?
I thought I’d be the summoner, not the summoned.
I thought I played the acolyte, not Aphrodite.
I thought my role was of fair maiden, not Faerie Queen.
I thought I’d forever seek, yet never be sought.
I don’t understand.
I can’t understand.
I am mortal and fallible and
not nearly deserving enough.
And yet I sense a goddess status,
a stirring beneath my breast bone,
and the old spiced blood beats once more in
a reawakening of someone something sometime long passed.
The moon to light the lone wolf’s path,
the candle to lead you home.
Is this who I am supposed to be?
Is this who you are supposed to make me?
Lay your offerings at my feet, beloved,
and I will kiss your brow in blessing.
Go with my protection.
Go with my guidance.
Go with my love.
[ Scribbled down the first draft of this at 3:30 AM, a time at which every idea seems so much better than it really is. Someone is a bad influence on my sleeping habits. ]
If I were fair Titania
I’d spirit you away
and sorrow’d no more trouble you
among the court of fey
If I were Queen of Elfland
you’d dress in silk and gold
and be the fearless heroine
of every ballad told
Yet I am merely mortal
no royalty am I
and I have naught to offer you
but arms in which to cry
My hands will hold you gently
and wipe away your tears
while from my lips I’ll speak the words
to banish all your fears
I may not rule in Faerie
nor bend earth to my will
yet everything I am is yours
if you will have me still
[ Apparently being in a relationship makes me incredibly saccharine. Whodathunk? Now go read my girlfriend’s poetry. It’s waaaay better than mine. ]
Mage had been in the city four months before she saw the wolf. Four months of pacing the endless streets, searching every dark alley and abandoned building for evidence of the two men she’d been sure she’d find here. Four months of trading haiku and short stories scribbled on the backs of paper scraps for meals and scavenged baubles for a place to spend the night. Four months of disappointment tainting every glimpse of tempest eyes or snow white hair. Four months spent clinging to hope while she tried desperately to pretend this hadn’t been a colossally bad idea. Bordertown, for all its magic, for all its elves and shimmering graffiti and sense of endless possibility, was turning out to be just another crowded, overwhelming city.
And then she met the wolf, and nothing was ever the same.
~ * ~
Another day of failure. Mage dropped onto a street corner and inspected one purple striped tennis shoe, frowning at the spots where the rubber sole had worn through completely. Her quest had taken her up to Dragon’s Tooth Hill again in the hopes one of her boys had taken up residence with the Fair Folk. No luck, though, and after enough cold stares the girl had trooped back down to the friendlier sections of the city. Now, with evening falling and the bright city coming alive for a second time, she turned her attention to acquiring dinner and a safe place to pass the night.
“I lost my life that day and I lost her too / My glass is empty / I drank most of it down / I like the burn coating my throat / As long as I don’t feel the burn I’ve hidden…”
Mage glanced up from digging in her backpack for something worth trading and searched for the source of the music. Her eyes fell on a singer standing on the opposite street corner, an open guitar case at her feet and dark hair falling in her face as she belted out the haunting tune. In one breath Mage was on her tired feet again; in another she was crossing the street, pulled by song and singer both.
“Another memory / Another drink / More truth than lies now / I can’t stop thinking of you, of you / Can’t stop thinking of you…”
Bordertown was filled with musicians plying their trade and Mage had heard it all; rock ballads, rap lullabies, gibberish and mirror words and languages from lands unknown. She’d never heard music like this, though. This music was raw, brutal, vulnerable. Honest. Familiar, even, like something she had never heard but should have, long ago.
“I hate the memories coating my eyes / They won’t stop pouring down, down…”
For a moment their eyes met, ocean gray to rich velvet brown, and Mage felt an unfamiliar flush. Breaking the contact quickly, she reached into her pocket and tossed a doodle into the guitar case before hurrying away – a faceless man with the wings of an angel and a crescent moon held like a scythe in his hand. Maybe it’d be enough to get the girl a cup of tea or something. That was all Mage had to offer; words and doodles and fiction.
~ * ~
With a sigh, Mage turned away from the unnaturally red Mad River. It had been a good idea in theory; the lost and alone were often drawn to the river’s promise of temporary relief and she could picture Tanim seeking its protection from the ghosts in his mind. None of the huddled creatures by the river’s shore or hidden in the shadows beneath the bridges and docks had been him, though, nor his pale companion. As Mage trudged back into the city her broken shoe sole made a desolate flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop sound.
“You were so elegant and so tempting / I was so blinded and so wrong / What made me think you wanted me? / What made me think you wanted her? / What made me sacrifice her to you?”
Later on, Mage would wonder whether she had truly been wandering or if her feet had somehow known where she wanted to go even when she herself didn’t have a clue. Evening found her once again on the street corner where the exotic guitarist played another song that spoke of ghosts whom crossing the border hadn’t been enough to shake. Mage paused on the sidewalk and stared. The lyrics moved past and around and through her, speaking to the weary, defeated core of her heart.
“Something strange is coursing through me and I don’t even care / I’m lost in the pull of it all / Something strange is tearing through me and I wish I could care / But I’m lost in the pull of it all…”
Around her people flowed by down the street, Truebloods and halfies and humans, but the girl paid no attention. Every atom of her being focused on what this song, this singer, was trying to tell her. And not just her as the listener – her. Mage. This song had been written for her to hear, for her to understand. And she did.
“I saw what you wanted me to see / I played the part you wrote for me / Why did I think I breathed for you?”
Silence followed the final chords of the song and Mage found herself loathe to break it, too respectful of the mood the girl had set on the warm night air. Finally she worked up the courage to approach, a tanka this time in her hand, and as she let it flutter into the guitar case she asked, voice barely more than a shy whisper, “What’s your guitar’s name?”
The other girl blinked as if she hadn’t expected Mage to speak to her at all, let alone ask something so odd. Then a small smile broke over her face and she replied, “Pharaoh.” A powerful name for a powerful instrument. Mage approved heartily.
“I’m Mage,” She offered the name without hesitation, a first for her in this city of strangest strangers. Mage wasn’t her real name, of course, but she’d done her research before coming to Bordertown and knew what power true names wielded here. They weren’t to be traded lightly. Nicknames could tell just as much about a person yet prevented someone from weaving a spell around you. Spells. At least the stories had been right about those.
“Fenris,” the girl bestowed in return. Mage nodded. Yes, of course that was her name. It suited her perfectly, though Mage didn’t know why. It just felt… right. Fierce and wild and beautiful. A creature longing to be free. Even if you tried to choose a name at random, somehow it always spoke to some sliver of your inner self.
“Can I buy you a cup of tea? I’ve got a short story about a coral city by the sea I think is good enough for two cups, or maybe even some pancakes,”
And thus Mage came to know the wolf.
~ * ~
“There are specters everywhere / Chameleoned in folds of curtains / That are pulled back at six ante meridiem / They always come back / But the fire is so warm / And it cancels out the chill / From the lazy hand of Zeus / Who didn’t want the girl to survive…”
Arms around her legs, head resting against her knees, Mage let the newest song wash over her. This one didn’t want to haunt or condemn; it wanted to comfort, to inspire, to kindle a guttered flame. The sunset sank to chilly darkness but she didn’t notice, too wrapped up in the music and the warm presence sitting beside her on the stone stoop. For the first time since entering Bordertown, Mage felt no urge to wander or search. She felt content simply to be.
“Surprise / She had wings tucked into her jacket / And when she jumped / She knew she would soar…”
The song came to a close but Mage didn’t open her eyes. In the ensuing silence drifted the remnants of those final notes and she let them settle over her like ash. And then even they faded and all that remained was the sound of her heart in her temples and Fenris’ breathing beside her. That was a music of a sort, too, she realized.
“What are you looking for?”
Mage smiled at the question and unfolded as she glanced at her companion. It was rude to ask someone flat out why they had journeyed to Bordertown but everyone came looking for something – a way out, a way in, something stolen or lost or never known – so it was usually safe to ask about that instead. The search for, not the flight from. She considered giving a false answer, something cliché about magic or elves or something, but the fierce sincerity in Fenris’ eyes made her pause. Somehow Mage knew this girl would understand. Giving her a false answer would be more than a mistake – it would be a betrayal of their burgeoning bond.
“It’s silly…” Mage kicked at the pavement, searching for the right words. “I thought… I thought I might find them here. The Sun and Moon. Back in the World I could only see them in text, on paper, in my dreams, and it drove me crazy. I thought maybe here… I mean, this place is full of stuff that’s supposed to just be fiction, so I hoped they’d be…” She shrugged, sighed more heavily than she meant to, and shook her head, the peace of a moment before fled with the reminder of her failure. “It was a stupid idea. I should just stop looking.”
“No!” Fenris’ exclamation was nearly a cry of despair as she took Mage’s cool hand in both of her own. “Anything’s possible in Bordertown,” the musician swore, clutching the hand to her breast. “Your Sun and Moon are here somewhere, I’m sure of it. Don’t give up.” She hesitated, staring down at their clasped hands as if only now realizing what she had done, then turned her sweet, dark gaze back up and asked, “Maybe we can search for them together?”
Together? No one had ever offered such a thing to her. No one had ever understood why she sought, let alone who, nor how the longing drove her like a compass needle embedded in her chest. It had drawn her here, to Bordertown, to a place of danger and beauty and wonder. Could it have led her to this girl as well?
“I…” Mage nodded, swallowing the sudden lump in her throat. “I’d like that. Thank you.” They shared a silent, comfortable moment, and then Fenris freed her hand to take up her guitar once more. Mage watched her calloused fingers wander over the strings, mesmerized by their confidence, their mastery over this familiar landscape. She found herself asking the question before it even formed in her mind. “What are you looking for?”
Fenris just smiled and strummed the last few chords of the song again.
“Surprise / She had wings tucked into her jacket / And when she jumped / She knew she would soar…”
you stir up my ghosts
memories dogging my heels
leave them in our dust
they’re jealous of your heartbeat
envious of your beauty
[ You are so much more than they ever were. ]
You say, “My dreams are graveyards of ghosts, too, lately,” and so I take your hand and bid, “Show them to me.” We need not fear our graveyards; what harm can the dead do to us now? They may reach out with jealous spectral fingers to touch our warmth and feel our pulses, yet they cannot drag us down into the cold dirt with them. They are naught but the remnants of people who no longer exist (though somewhere someone living still bears their name), memories which fade and curl with time. Do not be afraid as you walk through the graves of your past, our fingers entwined, our steps silent on old leaves and older earth. Stop by one and tell me who lays here, who they were when you knew them, what power they have to come crawling back out of the ground in which you’ve buried them. In turn I’ll take you to mine and tell you about the girl whose heart I broke, the boy who broke mine, the dreams in which they slip through the cracks in the locked door of my subconscious. You need not walk alone in your graveyard. Let me follow at your side and soothe your ghosts back to their everslumber. Then, hand in hand, we will walk out again.
I set words adrift
trusting to the unknown sea
will they find your shores?
Sometimes I think the universe is like a river and if I wait long enough on its banks everything I need will come floating past: an almost-like-new flat screen to replace my ancient beast, a free crockpot bigger and fancier than the one I broke in the sink, two perfectly serviceable bar chairs when everyone’s been complaining I don’t have enough seating in my apartment. Part of me figures I can do the same with you as well, that passive patience will trump active perseverance and if I wait, eventually you too will one day come floating down and I can scoop you like a leaf out of the water. That’s not how it works, of course, and another part of me, the part I really only listen to in the dead of night, knows that. Sure, you may be somewhere in that river, but I’ll never catch you by lingering on the shore. I’d have to wade into those dark depths, risk that unpredictable current, brave the long, cold swim that may never have an end. Yet once I submerge myself, can I ever climb back out? Or will I become another bit of flotsam carried along to some far, unknown destination? I’m not sure I’m ready to take that plunge. The shore is familiar, safe, predictable, and you know I’ve never been the adventurous type. For now I’ll remain on the bank and keep tossing my note-filled bottles into the waves, hoping somehow they’ll find their way to you. And maybe if I’m feeling bold I’ll dip my toes in the water.
Oh sister, don’t you see? Someone cannot become a ghost if they never existed in the first place. You are no specter like he; you are a figment, a concept, an ideal, impossible from the very beginning. It’s a terrible pity that he should live and die and thus be granted a phantom’s immortality while you, you who would have sucked the marrow of life to taste even its final dregs, will never have that chance. If any deserve animation or resurrection it’s you, my dear, but what can I do? These long years have proven I have no power to spark real breath from my words, that I cannot make you a thing of flesh and bone simply by desire alone. Only in dream may I glance into the mirror and find you staring back, slender hands pressed to the glass so I can pull you through. You aren’t in that mirror when I wake – why else do you think I never look too closely as I pass by? You do not haunt my dreams, sister. You are my dreams. And I haven’t the heart to tell you that it only pains me more to know you once in fiction than never in reality. Don’t you see? I would rather have never known the liquid lyricism of your voice than to wake alone when seconds before your laughter tickled against my ear. I would give anything for you, but I’m not a child anymore. I no longer search for fairy rings; I rarely check under the bed at night; I don’t believe if I stand at my mirror and chant “thee to me, sister, thee to me” you will cross over to this world. I know you are impossible. It’s time you accepted it as well. You can’t haunt me if you’re not a ghost.
But then I thought, what if I’m the sister dark? What if you’re the one who walks in sunlight and leaves me here on the other side to await manifestation at nightfall? I can see myself now: palms pressed to the cool mirror glass, begging for mercies you will never hear as you pass me by. Or worse yet: palms pressed to the unyielding barrier as you stare into the mirror and still don’t see me, the words of summon lost to you forever ( “thee to me, sister!” I cry, unheard, “thee to me!”) and so I as well. If that were the case, would you ever choose me? Staring into the glass but seeing nothing, could you ever have faith that I wait beyond your reflection, needing only those four sacred words to bridge the space between us? Take my hands. Speak the words. Draw me forth. We belong together, you and I.
Sister, sister, get me out of here. I’m being consumed. I’m being devoured. I’m being transformed. My head’s buzzing with machinery’s language, harsh hammering consonants and vowels like metal gears grinding together. It’s filling my head and I can’t remember the sound of rain or the voices of the waves or the keening, wailing wind. Sister, sister, get me out of here before I forget everything I never needed to learn. The walls are closing in. I swear, every time I close my eyes they creep a little nearer and I sink a little deeper in the well. I just won’t close my eyes, then. I won’t sleep because if I sleep the morning will come again and the cacophony in my head will thunder until I weep from its discordant pandemonium. Sister, sister, get me out of here, take me away from this place. I’m crumpled before the mirror, so for the love of mercy just clasp my aching hands and pull me through the glass. I don’t belong here. I don’t want to be in the well. Carry me over to the other side where the night is gentle and the Moon’s lullaby is a soft murmur on the water. Remind me of the languages I once knew, the hymns of the Wildland. They feel so far away now. Sister, sister, get me out of here while there’s still time. I’m not myself anymore. I can’t remember who I am. I can’t remember what I am. I can’t remember why I am. Sister, sister, get me out of here. Take me home.
“Hide and Seek”
forgive me, sister
I don’t mean to call so late
but aching fingers
still seek the comfort of touch
and still the words come
beloved and unbidden
thee to me, sister
I am a fool for calling
a fool for longing
a fool to face the mirror
but frozen fingers
still touch palm to mirrored palm
and still my lips move
whisper the incantation
thee to me, sister
I am going to attempt to be honest tonight. Honest with myself; honest with whatever eyes may read this. I do not know what words I will write here, but I will write words and I will not erase them.
This is what I believe: I believe I exist for a reason. I believe I am a vessel. I believe I was born empty so that I might be filled, like a chalice waits to be filled with sweet wine or holy water. I was born empty so that I might be filled with memories, with knowledge, with understanding, with grief, with joy, with longing. I am filled with all the world. It does not matter if I give name to the Providence which has blessed me with such an immeasurable task, for it is not my part to question fate or deny my path. I have faith, and I cannot walk astray. I am a vessel for all that might be forgotten, might be overlooked, might be cast aside if not for one who will carry these things, all of these things, with her in every moment, in every breath, in every heartbeat. I am past and present always, part and parcel of the timeless worlds which have come before, which will come after, which coexist like shared harmonies. I do not claim to know the workings of these worlds, nor the truths of even the words I have ever spoken, here speak, but I am filled by these things nonetheless. The chalice does not question what it holds within itself, only loves that which has filled it to the brim and made it complete. And I am always being filled, always gathering memories of scent and sense and sensation to myself. I remember warm hay and cool grass and summer nights beneath heavy apple trees. I remember bare feet and tangled hair and birds calling from the shifting dunes. I remember my own life, and others’, and lives which no one has yet lead and may never lead. I am my own memories; I am the world’s memories. I am deserts where the mesas are painted in bands of red and orange and gold; I am oceans which surge against the white flour sand to embrace the land just once, just once before the tide ebbs; I am mountains which split open the sky and bathe in liquid darkness. I am everywhere at once. I am everything at once.
And I am more. I am the words; singular, plural, possessive. I am the music; thrilling, lulling, driving. I am the heartbeat of the earth beneath my feet, the hot liquid core which revolves and grinds in this revolution a pulse to which my own blood is attuned. I am the stones, the rain, the tempest. I am copper. Clay. Cotton. I am silver. Silk. Shells. I am the thunder on the grasslands. I am birds in flight, the Sun through dappled leaves, the Moon on unbroken snow. I am the tentative blossoms of spring and the fermented spices of autumn. I am the maiden. I am the mother. I am the crone. I am everything that has lived, that has been given life through desire or need or belief, that has been longed for and dreamed of. In every moment, I am everything. Nameless, formless, boundless, I am everything. My heart is not mine to give to another, for my heart has already been promised to this land, to the Wild Land, to the Otherland, to all lands. To everything. Everything.
This is the truth, and I know it to be so because it is only in this truth that I am able to fully recognize myself. I am Elyssa, yes, but she is not all that I am. She is a part of me, as they all are. I have been many people. I am many people. I have kissed Shakespeare’s Sister to know her taste of blackberries and salt, and I have woken beside her in a cottage by the sea and touched her skin so warm in slumber. She is a part of me, and she is with me in all moments. I have waited at the window with Tanim, and I have held him as he wept for love and longing. He is a part of me, and he is with me in all moments. I have lain in the darkness with Daren and felt him tremble, and I have taken his madness and his grief and his aching into myself forever. He is a part of me, and he is with me in all moments. And more. I have paced all the winter lands with the Darkelvenmage and shared the burden of her frozen heart; I have carried Bast’s child in my arms as he ushered me to the undying lands and have seen his spirit walk beside me even in the waking world; I have opened my lungs to the cold ocean as the woman who loved rocks left behind the land and walked into the water’s cold embrace. I have lived with them. I have died with them. I have loved with them, raged with them, broken with them and healed with them. I have known the goddess. I have touched the savior. I have cradled the Sun in my arms and closed the Moon’s eyelids in death and buried Shakespeare’s Sister in a nameless crossroads grave. They are all within me, carried with me, treasured with me. I am all of them. I am a vessel. I am a conduit. I am a blank page. I am empty so that I may be filled.
I cannot tell you how this is the truth, but I have faith for I trust in Providence and in love and in the experiences I have had, the things I have felt, the things I have been. I know who I am. What I am. How I am. This is the strange and beautiful truth. This is my meaning. This is my destiny. This is who I truly am.
Since Shakespeare’s ephemeral sister has been haunting my dreams of late, I thought I should appease my third muse with a list of songs which remind me of her. Tanim and Daren steal most of my attention, so I hope this restores the balance a bit. Enjoy. ♥
1) Sister Mother – Sixpence None the Richer
“My life is plagued/ By mistakes, broken love, slaps in the face/ But I’m trying to care, to dare to embrace your face/ Hug him like a brother/ Kiss her like a sister/ Let it be my mother for now/ I want to find where the maid in the street/ Is pouring her wine/ I heard she takes you in and gives you the words/ You need said/ If you’ll be her brother/ She’ll kiss you like a sister/ She’ll even be your mother for now”
2) One Day I Slowly Floated Away – Eisley
“And in the corner chair/ Soft and soap-scented/ My darling cries apologies/ We foresee the mercy/ That’s been shown my young limbs/ Will not go unthanked or unseen/ Wake up in the morning I shall/ Wake up and so shall you/ And I wake up, the sun is beautiful/ And it is warming you and I/ Fragile as we lie”
3) Margaret vs Pauline – Neko Case
“Everything’s so easy for Pauline/ Ancient strings set feet a light to speed to her such mild grace/ No monument of tacky gold/ They smoothed her hair with cinnamon waves/ And they placed an ingot in her breast to burn cool and collected/ Fate holds her firm in its cradle and then rolls her for a tender pause to savor/ Everything’s so easy for Pauline
Girl with the parking lot eyes/ Margaret is the fragments of a name/ Her bravery is mistaken for the thrashing in the lake/ Of the make-believe monster whose picture was faked/ Margaret is the fragments of a name/ Her love pours like a fountain/ Her love steams like rage/ Her jaw aches from wanting and she’s sick from chlorine/ But she’ll never be as clean/ As the cool side of satin, Pauline”
4) Marvelous Things – Eisley
“I followed a rabbit/ Through rows of mermaid entwined shrubbery/ Ah ah…. / Oh what marvelous things but, they are, they are, they are/ Giving me the creeps/ Dark night hold tight, and sleep tight my baby/ Morning light shall burst bright/ And keep us here safely”
5) Hide and Seek – Imogen Heap
“Where are we?/ What the hell is going on?/ The dust has only just begun to form crop circles in the carpet/ Sinking feeling/ Spin me round again and rub my eyes/ This can’t be happening/ When busy streets a mess with people/ Would stop to hold their heads heavy/ Hide and seek/ Trains and sewing machines/ All those years/ They were here first”
6) Kiss Me – Sixpence None the Richer
“Kiss me down by the broken tree house/ Swing me upon its hanging tire/ Bring, bring, bring your flowered hat/ We’ll take the trail marked on your father’s map/ Oh, kiss me beneath the milky twilight/ Lead me out on the moonlit floor/ Lift your open hand/ Strike up the band and make the fireflies dance/ Silver moon’s sparkling/ So kiss me”
7) Exile – Enya
“Cold as the northern winds/ In December mornings/ Cold is the cry that rings/ From this far distand shore/ Winter has come too late/ Too close beside me/ How can I chase away/ All these fears deep inside?/ I’ll wait the signs to come/ I’ll find a way/ I will wait the time to come/ I’ll find a way home/ My light shall be the Moon/ And my path the ocean/ My guide the morning star/ As I sail home to you”
Again, she haunts me. Again, she taunts me. In my dream I stood in front of a large vanity in a dark, featureless room. I turned to my reflection in the mirror and saw that my hair was bound back in a thick braid which reached past my waist. On the vanity lay a silver dagger and a single match. I took the blade in my hand and sliced off my braid at the level of my chin, piling the dark coil of hair before the mirror. Then I lit the match and lowered the little flame, igniting the severed braid. The flames which consumed the offering did not burn orange and choke the air with a reeking smoke, though, but were a bright silver and burned cleanly. When I glanced back up from the blaze, I saw that my reflection had changed. The woman in the mirror still wore her hair in a single long braid, but where before it had been black as flint, it had grown white as bleached bone. Her eyes had changed as well; instead of reflecting my own expression back to me, her sharp gaze peered out from beyond the glass itself and seemed to know my inmost thoughts and desires. In that moment I wanted so terribly to complete the ritual by holding my hand out and commanding “thee to me, sister, thee to me”, but I could not raise my arm. I could not say the words. We watched each other, my sister dark and I, and the understanding passed between our locked eyes. I could not offer my hand to her. She could not move beyond the glass. We would remain separated, only briefly united in this muddled dreamworld. I woke, then, hating and loving the lingering weight of her gaze upon me.
So I have been thinking about muses a lot lately: how different people understand the nature and role of muses, as well as how they listen to and interact with their respective muses. A couple days ago, I got hooked on the idea of presenting your muses with offerings. What forms would these offerings take? Would they be different for each muse? I have been ruminating over this idea ever since and have finally come up with what I, at least, would offer my own muses*. I wanted the offerings to be something I could easily obtain (though I may never actually set physical offerings out for my muses), so I limited them to one drink and one food per muse. This is what I have come up with:
Milk – here milk represents femininity, childhood, nature, strength, and motherhood. I chose milk as Shakespeare’s Sister’s drink because she is the embodiment of both the classical idea of a muse and of feminine energy itself. She is a manifestation of both the mother, sister, and the lover, and in my eyes milk is a substance inherently linked to that sense of womanhood. Milk is also a substance which has long been offered to muses and deities alike, and I have always seen Shakespeare’s Sister as a personal reincarnation of the timeless muse. Therefore, milk seemed fitting for her.
Chocolate – here chocolate represents childhood, whimsicality, inner peace, relaxation, indulgence, and intimacy. As I said before, I consider Shakespeare’s Sister to be mainly a feminine muse and nothing is more feminine than indulging in a rich piece of chocolate after a stressful day. Shakespeare’s Sister is also in many ways the muse of my childhood, so she would of course be delighted by an offering of anything sweet. At the complete opposite end of this spectrum, chocolate can also represent shared intimacy when Shakespeare’s Sister is presented in the role of lover.
Hard alcohol – here hard alcohol represents a need for calm, numbing, removal from a situation, and purposefully ignoring one’s sorrows. I chose hard alcohol as Tanim’s drink because Tanim is a high-strung man who often becomes focused on one thing to the point of obsession. Since he is often focused on either his own emptiness or whatever heartache is generated from his interactions and/or relationship with Daren, Tanim often turns to alcohol to ease his misery. Not particularly healthy, but I believe a shot of whiskey to calm one’s nerves is a fitting offering for Tanim. The poor guy could use a break.
Baked goods – here baked goods, especially breakfast foods, represent abundance, indulgence, devotion, and generosity. Despite the fact that he spends a majority of his life alone, Tanim is a very devoted man who really wants nothing more than to dote on the object of his affections. Since his generosity is often channeled through a desire to stuff his lover full of food, I thought an offering of baked goods would especially please him. Baked goods, after all, require time, effort, forethought, and especially love to produce a tasty final product. Also, most baked goods, like waffles or scones or cookies, are considered food that you want but do not necessarily need. Baked goods are an indulgence, and therefore a symbol of the baker’s devotion.
Red wine – here red wine represents blood, namely Tanim’s, and therefore devotion, loyalty, oneness, sacrifice, and bondage. I chose red wine because it is often used as a substitute for blood in actual spiritual offerings (though theoretically I could also use Tanim’s real blood as an offering in a literary form). Red wine obviously represents sacrifice and devotion because the offering is of one’s own blood and thus a submission both of body and of spirit. By consuming that blood, then, Daren accepts Tanim’s submission and is therefore forever bound to the man. However, the interesting thing about Daren is that I had an incredibly hard time choosing offerings for him because there is nothing he wants from another person. Devotion especially troubles him because he does not want to be elevated to the status of deity or obsession, something which often occurs in his interactions/relationship with Tanim. So while an offering of blood or red wine suits Daren because of his integral role as the object of both my and Tanim’s affections, it is also an offering which seals Daren in a bond he does not necessarily accept willingly.
Recovery food (soup, toast, oatmeal, crackers, etc) – recovery food here represents healing, warmth, comfort, being cared for, and wellness. I chose recovery food as an offering for Daren because he struggles his entire life with a body highly susceptible to weakness and illness. Compounded by a poor diet and sleep constantly interrupted by night terrors, this leads to Daren being sick more often than he is healthy. Since he often cannot take care of himself, recovery foods like soup or toast not only represent a chance for healing, but also the presence of another willing to care for him (namely Tanim). Also, unlike Tanim’s baked goods which are considered food you want but do not need, recovery foods are food you need but do not necessarily want when you feel fine; yet in the midst of a serious flu or fever, dry toast and soup can be the most comforting meal in the world. Such an offering would speak to Daren’s need for strength and healing.
*To be honest, I’m not entirely comfortable calling Tanim and Daren my "muses". I just use the word because I lack a better one at the moment and everyone else seems to use it for their own characters/creations/inspirations/whathaveyou.
The muse builds a cage
to house the errant songbird
and draw forth her words
In my dream I sat breaking bread at a worn wooden table in the kitchen of a house which smelled of fresh-picked blackberries and pitchers of creme. There was light in this house, sure enough, come through the watery windows in lazy dust mote shafts, but when you threw open the door you gave off an illumination all your own. Too beautiful a day to waste inside!, you exclaimed. Why should I sit at a table when I could picnic outside and wriggle my toes in summer’s cool grass? You took my hand, then, and led me out of the house. The sunlight bathed your skin in caramel hues, lit your golden hair like a crown and danced a thousand times mirrored in your ocean eyes. Entwining your fingers with mine and leading me down a cobbled garden path, you told me of last night’s dream. You said you had dreamed of soft cotton and fresh bread and wondered what these symbols might represent. I said I wasn’t sure, but perhaps some Egyptian god or goddess had come to you in the night to offer these tokens of prosperity. My answer made you smile and that was good. That was meaningful. You trusted your dream so deeply that I believed it as well, believed and loved you for your awesome faith that some Nile goddess had chosen to send you, my goddess, such a vision.
As we walked I recalled my own dream from the night before, though I did not reveal this dream to you. I had dreamed of a vast pool of water, a whole world of ripples and tides and floating islands. I had been young in this dream, just a child. There was another girl my age in the pool and she smiled to me, laughing in the clear, bright language only children may share. She showed me all of the water Wonderland’s secrets, how we were surrounded by fairies and spirits and ghosts, creatures that were women and trees both and little dancing lights which had neither body nor soul. The spirits frightened me with their gaping black eyes and long tendrils of hair but the girl told me we were safe. She wanted to share this world with me. She wanted me to stay forever. But I was afraid of her fervent eyes and the water which seemed to creep ever higher up my waist, my chest, my throat, and so I ran away. Although I said nothing, a part of me wanted to describe this dream to you because I wanted to know if you would have stayed in the otherworld if the girl had held your hand and revealed to you the monstrous fey, the will-o-lights, the water clear like glass and sweet like wine. Yet I did not reveal this dream because when I glanced to your eyes, as rich and deep as all the seas in all the waking and dreaming worlds, I understood. You would answer any call to myth or magic, my dear, and never once look back. In a heartbeat I would lose you for all eternity to Wonderland, Neverland, Otherland. That is why I did not ask. That is why I did not say that when I fled the girl in my dream I came across an apple tree I had played under as a child, why I did not admit to you that I buried my face against its rough trunk and wept for a childhood so far in the untouchable past.
Funny, for waking now and knowing I have never actually gazed upon your wicked wonderful eyes or touched your electric skin, I want to weep anew. The water world was beautiful and terrifying but you were more excellent than any realm, beloved. As I lay alone in this darkness I am torn between seeking sleep again, in the hopes you may return to me in dreaming, or clinging to wakefulness and the last vestiges of your touch.
Sometimes I see her at night, as I stand on the dock and toss my bottled messages out into the arms of the dancing tide. She is a flickering within the water, a momentary wake of silver ripples through the Moon’s aqueous reflection. As my bobbing bottle makes its way seaward and I turn to retrace my well-worn path, she begins her song. In the dark she is only a silhouette upon the jagged rock, all silken seaweed hair and wave polished skin, but her pale eyes gleam like mirrors in the light of my solitary lantern. The call of her song is very familiar to me; its ancient, foreign words paint brilliant pictures in my mind. She sings to me of cities beneath the sea, of underwater staircases and statues carved of pearl and marble. She tells of banquets served on seashells, of storms whose thunder is the roar of crashing waves high above in the liquid sky. She serenades me with promises of the deep, of the dark, of the undying and the unending. Her song laps at my feet like eager little waves franticly yearning to draw me into the black waters, but as on every night I resist its seduction. My heart is earthbound and she cannot call me to the sea. Her soul is governed by the Moon’s pull and I cannot call her to the land. As my bottle drifts out to sea, we go our separate ways once again.