October 5th, 2011


Poem: "Afterlove"

This poem was inspired and sponsored by mdlbear.  It also draws on motifs -- some of them rather hidden -- from various religions implying how it is that one transitions from life to what comes next and the means of navigating in that space.


Say that there's another world
somewhere beyond this one,
another life that lies after death, if only
for those who hold such things as true.

It isn't one soul's belief
that makes a bridge
from here to there.
It isn't our own faith
that lights the way through
the valley of the shadow.
It isn't any grace within
that gives us wings
and teaches us to fly.

Say that somewhere there's an angel
with rosepetal wings and amethyst eyes
who already knows the bridge and the light and
every soaring path through the perilous open air.

It's love that built the bridge
between earth and heaven,
love that hung light in the shadowed sky
steady as the North Star beyond life's horizon,
love that reminds each soul
as it reaches the brink:

you already know how to fly.


Poem: "Stellar Spectres"

This poem was inspired by prompts from stryck and rix_scaedu. It was sponsored by rix_scaedu. "Stellar Spectres" is a science myth, presented as a sonnet: a blend of known science, primal concepts, and a dash of storytelling. We are all made of star stuff, and this is how it goes...

Stellar Spectres
-- a sonnet

They dream through countless years, and dance their dreams
Across the halls of heaven's endless night.
They pour their splendor forth in waves of light
To spend themselves in great and shining streams.
What hopes and wishes stars may hold, it seems,
Are not such things as wealth or love or flight
But rather ends and densities so tight
They leave each nova bursting at the seams.

They fling their ashes wide, turn dreams to dust,
And scatter through the galaxy's wide girth.
In time, dust settles down to prove its worth
In those who hold their dreams in sacred trust:
We are but stellar spectres, and this Earth
An afterlife so strange that ghosts give birth.

Poem: "Crossing Roads"

This poem came out of the October 4, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired and sponsored by marina_bonomi.  It began with a reference to a Chinese belief about how ghosts can get trapped.  I threw in a lot of other tidbits from Buddism and related traditions, concerning how souls move through life.

Crossing Roads

Once there was a wise young monk
who was murdered by a thief.
The monk's ghost was trapped
at the crossroads where he had died,
unable to move along the Wheel
until his allotted time had passed
or he found someone else to take his place.
So the ghost sat beside the road
and watched the people go by,
whistling the tune of his favorite hymn.

On sunny days, an old man also
came to sit beside the road
and watch the people go by.
He had a habit of sharing his rice balls
with the ghost, who was always hungry,
and sometimes they made up stories
about the people who traveled the roads.
Soon they became good friends,
always sharing the same bench
under the same tree where birds sang.

Curious, the old man asked his friend
why he was stuck haunting the crossroads.
The monk told him about the murdering thief and
how his own ghost was trapped until the end of his time
unless he could put someone else in his place.

"Have you never seen that murdering thief again?"
the old man asked.  "You might change places with him."
The ghost sighed.  "I do not wish to kill anyone
who values his own life, and the thief surely does that."
A transparent hand pointed across the road.
"There he is.  See how fat he is?  He loves his life,
though I cannot see that he has done any good with it."
"I see," the old man said.  "That is a sad story."

One day, the sun came out but the old man did not.
The ghost watched and waited to no avail.
Days passed before the old man finally returned,
and when he did, he seemed weary and worn,
his steps dragging all the way to his favorite bench.

"My dear friend, whatever is wrong?"
the ghost exclaimed.
"I have been unwell," the old man said. 
"The doctor says that I will not recover,
but it may take me some time to die.
Soon I will lack the strength even to sit out here in the sun.
I will miss that very much.  I love watching people.
I would be happy to do nothing else to the end of my days."

"Then so you shall," said the ghost. 
With that, he stood up and passed his hand
through a branch of the tree that shaded their bench. 
It fell upon the old man, killing him instantly.
Then the monk's spirit was free to travel the Wheel,
while the old man's ghost gladly sat by the crossroads.

The days passed, and the birds in the tree
hatched the eggs in their nest.
Soon the fledgings grew big enough
to fly away, and so they did -- all but one.
The ghost smiled when he heard the little bird
begin to whistle a familiar hymn
and he knew that his friend had returned
to sit with him and watch the people go by.


Poem: "A Haunting of Walls"

This poem came out of the October 5, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from technomage, natasiakith, and Dreamwidth user Whatawaytoburn.  It was sponsored by technomage.  The image of a ghost in the walls -- usually someone bricked up to die there -- is very old.  This ghost is haunting walls of a different kind for a different reason.

A Haunting of Walls

The 18th century architect
haunted the last house he built
until it burned down.

For a time he drifted aimlessly,
until one day he noticed
strange lines of light
drawing themselves in midair.

Intrigued, the architect
examined the firewalls
and discovered
how to slip through them.

The nature of the space they enclosed
seemed queer to him, and yet
there were still walls and doors and windows.
There were even mice,
though they looked nothing like the ones
his white cat used to leave on the bath mat of a morning.

The architect learned
how to ghost through the machines,
how to inhabit their walls and windows.
He learned what could be done with the mice
and with the blueprints that were no longer blue
but still explained how to build things.

Then he built himself a new house
on the same old hill,
bigger and finer than the one before,
all firewalls and CAD blueprints
and windows frosted with moonlight.

Sometimes, bypassers thought
that they saw a house on the hill,
but when they went for a closer look
they could not find it
and when they asked about it
they were told
that no such house had ever been built

and to shut up about it.


Poem: "Haunting Words"

This poem came out of the October 4, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from my_partner_doug, and sponsored by clare_dragonfly.  Usually when I write about linguistics, the angle is more uplifting, but there's something sad and spooky about dead languages ... and the awareness that all languages are mortal.

Haunting Words

The linguist is haunted by dead languages,
murmuring in the voices of those long gone.
There are languages slain by plague, by war,
by plain old entropy, by causes unknown.

Only fragments remain, etched on artifacts
or echoing in younger, related languages --
syllables left behind like shards of glass
hidden in the sand, waiting for unwary fingers
to sift through in search of meaning.

To study the history of languages
is to study humanity and all of its horrors,
rambling over battlefields and through tombs
in hopes of making some sense out of the senseless,
forever followed by the voiceless spectres
of things for which we no longer have any names.

Even the books and the scrolls
give up their silent accusations from every page:
See what the hands of men have wrought.

The dead languages cry out for justice,
but there is no justice for genocide,
only memory.

The linguist trails dusty fingers
over the stone monuments
where someone has written the words in granite,
words like "No More Hiroshima" and "Never Again."

The linguist knows that someday
English and Japanese and Hebrew and German
will all be dead languages, their phantom phrases
haunting some distant descendant
with ruins like the ankles of Ozymandius.


Poem: "Salt and Pepper"

This poem came out of the September 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from morrigans_eve.  It is posted here in full, after being offered as the linkbacks perk for the October 5, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  Special thanks to aldersprig for managing the linkbacks perk post yesterday, and to all the folks who linked to the Fishbowl Open post.

"Salt and Pepper" falls toward the beginning of Path of the Paladins, between "The Canticle of Days" and "To the Five Roads."  I was amused to discover that Gailah's sacred animal is not any of the ones commonly associated with deities in charge of such spheres as Peace, Good, etc.  You can read the other poems in this series on the Serial Poetry page of my website.

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New Verses in Serial Poems

Thanks to a recent donation, "From the Free City" is now complete!  Meet Ercole, a veteran of the battle in Fermo.  We'll be seeing more of him occasionally.

Also, there are 13 new verses in "The Accidental Hero."  Find out how Saphrax accidentally saved the world, and what new challenge Aldornia and Zenobia now have to face.

Fishbowl Update: $150 Goal Met!

See the fishie swim!  We've met the $150 goal, so you get a free series poem.  Everyone will get to vote on which series gets the extra poem.  If it's a series that already has unsponsored poems, you'll get to pick from those.  Otherwise, I'll post a call for prompts to the current donors and write something new.  (Last month's featured series were Fiorenza, the Italian Herbalist and Path of the Paladins, so those won't be eligible.)  Keep an eye on the Serial Poetry page; I'll be editing it soon to include some recent serial poems. 

We're close to the second goal; just $35 more will open a mid-month fishbowl in which everyone can participate.  You'll have the same opportunity to choose a featured series.  You've got until Friday evening to reach this goal.

Here is a progress meter showing the amount donated.  At $150 you get a free series poem; at $200 you get an extra fishbowl featuring a poetic series.

$275.50 raised, first goal MET, second goal MET 

Poem: "Heartshade"

This poem came out of the October 4, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from laffingkat and rowyn dealing with phantom personality traits and ghosts of the living.  It was sponsored by laffingkat.


The man who died
gave away his heart
to a young woman.

Presently the young woman
grew strong enough to leave her bed,
whereupon she discovered
a sudden love for the woods.

She took to walking in the mornings
and it seemed to make her heart happy
so she kept doing it even though
she had never felt inclined before.

Across town,
a middle-aged widow
found her house
inexplicably haunted

by the feather-light footsteps of a girl,
and the sound of laughter,
and the scent of autumn leaves
that reminded her so much of her husband
that it made her cry.

For time was a fluid thing,
and the middle-aged widow
and the young woman
and the tawny forest of fall
were all twined together

by the steady, echoing beat
of one man's heart.


Poem: "Ghosts of Fur and Feather"

This poem came out of the October 5, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from moonwolf1988 and wyld_dandelyon.  It was sponsored by laffingkat.

Ghosts of Fur and Feather

The kitten who loved to hunt became
a ghost-cat who could truly walk through walls,
stalking the phantasms with spectral tooth and claw
and leaving their corpses to be stepped on
by humans who shrieked at the inexplicable cold spots on the floor.

The puppy who loved to chase cars became
a ghost-dog who could run at the speed of dark
and once cornered a mailman that turned out to be a serial killer.
The police who caught the crook swore they heard a dog barking,
but no dog was ever found.

The parakeet who learned to mimic ringtones became
a ghost-bird who could fly where only angel wings go,
bringing a peck or a feathered caress wherever needed,
and little hunches of the soul that no would would remember
with more than, "A little bird told me."

The pets who live with people become real,
their animal spirits bounded by the bright line of love,
forever defined in ways that reach beyond the oversoul of species.
They remain, watching the people, wandering between wind and stars,
until Mother Earth draws them close and cloaks them in flesh again.

Poem: "Come Back"

This poem came out of the October 5, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from my_partner_doug and siliconshaman, along with the ensuing thread about CB radio slang.  It was sponsored by the_vulture.

Come Back

Everyone knows about the ghosts in the machine,
but no one ever asks how they got there.

Every time someone dies on the line,
a ghost enters the machine --

the telegraph worker shot by a gunslinger,
fingers still chirping away the dots and dashes

the radio officer killed in action,
signalling position to relief that never came

the truckers caught in a pileup,
still calling "10-4, good buddy" and "come back" --

and they do  come back,
unexpected messages echoing through time.

They are what delays and reroutes email,
what spits strange syllables through cell phones.

Forgotten slang and old codes filter through,
slow-flowing as glass in the windows of abandoned buildings.

New ghosts join them every day,
geeks keeled over at their keyboards.

The truckers guffaw over l33tspeak,
cozying up to the wraiths of computer wizards.

They listen, and wait, and watch, and sometimes one will
stick out a thumb to hitch a ride on radio signals headed for the stars.


Fishbowl Update: $200 Goal Met!

The current tally is $205.50 so there will be a mid-month fishbowl on a series of your choice.  Woohoo!  I'll post a poll for that shortly.  Thank you all for your support.

Also, you have $15 in the general fund so far.

I'm caught up with posting the sponsored poems from today.  I still have a few more prompter copies to send backchannel.  The Serial Poetry page has been updated with listings of recently written poetry.

Poll: Series for Mid-Month Fishbowl

Having met the $200 goal, there will be an extra poetry fishbowl on Tuesday, October 18.  Everyone may vote in the poll to select the series, and participate in the fishbowl later this month.  Last month's featured series were Fiorenza, the Italian Herbalist and Path of the Paladins; those are not eligible this time.  You may browse available series on the Serial Poetry page of my website.

Poll #1784624 October 2011 Series Poll for Mid-Month Fishbowl
This poll is closed.

Which series would you like to feature in the mid-month fishbowl?

Monster House
The Ocracies
The Origami Mage
Sort Of Heroes

Poem: "With His Boots On"

This poem came out of the October 5, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from e_scapism101 and ladyqkat, exploring how a new house might be haunted.  It was sponsored by ladyqkat.

See also the story "Eldis" by rix_scaedu, inspired while reading this poem.

With His Boots On

The house was new,
but the land was old.

Before there were cows,
there were bison.
In time, people came
to hunt the bison and
to call the land sacred.

Then other people came,
and brought their cows,
and no one remembered
that the land was sacred

but it still was.

The cowboy was diligent
about his work.
He cared about his cows.
He was out riding herd on them
when he died with his boots on,
and still he rode, watching
the lowing herds.

In time, the cows
went away,
as the bison had gone
before them.

The cowboy wandered,
bemused, among the houses
that sprang up like strange mushrooms.

Giggling children played
cowboys and indians
among the stories of the houses.
Sometimes they glimpsed him or
heard the stamp and jingle of his passage,
but they never spoke about the cowboy

until they were grown,
and had moved away,
and began to wonder
why a new house had been haunted.