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Haiku and senryu

One of these days I will get back to writing something other than haiku. Just not today.

Pain is good ~ pain is focus ~ pain is life

Prompt: search

Life, love, hope, dreams ~ the search is all we have; ~ along life's path. 
His search for meaning ~ brought him to truth; ~ he found her.
Even at ~ the moment of finding ~ the search goes on

Prompt: bottle
The note slips in; ~ a bottle ~ filled with floating regret
Knock 'em down ~ But you remain; the last ~ bottle on my wall 

Prompt: paint

Paint me a future ~ Every day fresh and clean; ~ With you.

Prompt: incognito, spirit, astound

Incognito heart ~ know no fear, my secret love; ~ spirit, hope astound.

Prompt: savour

A trickle of juice ~ from trembling lip to throat; ~ darting tongue savours.
This moment won't last ~ ephemeral, precious; ~ savour, cherish, feel.

These three were prompted by a challenge to use a cliché (from a list provided). I chose "beats me", "twist of fate" and "curiosity killed the cat".
Rain beats me, senseless, ~ battering soft and urgent; ~ creeping through my shell. 
Fumbling fingers ~ unravel our twist of fate; ~ destiny unknown.
Curiosity ~ killed the cat; Shroedinger ~ wasn't so sure.


More haiku, senryu and tanka

As usual, all of these have previously appeared on Twitter.

Burning, raw, livid ~ pale anger's swelling gift; ~ Overpowering.
Face to face, they lay; ~ hopes, futures, pasts, regrets, dreams ~ exchanged without words.
She sees the him ~ he hides behind; ~ delicate flower.

So long sharp-eyed ~ Yet sightless; finally ~ In each other, we see.
Citrus tang, ~ Tingles in my mouth; ~ Eyelids flutter
Old, smoky men ~ Admire young lovers' whirl ~ In ageless sway
Steam swirls ~ in morning's mist; ~ Pale stallion surveys
Coated in you, senses overcome; ~ Fill me, my love
Chance encounter. ~ A slick of kohl caught his eye; ~ He fell
Coiled pressure builds ~ Inside, outside; ~ Release me
I feel your tremble ~ Beneath my soft mouth; ~ We surrender
A flutter of eyelash ~ Against my skin; ~ I succumb, trembling.
You move in me. ~ Breath, sweat, love; ~ The opposite of pain
Swirling soft circles ~ Across your curves and valleys; ~ Map of our new world
Fingers grip my thigh ~ Blessed bruise of your hunger; ~ Beloved.
Your animal growl; ~ I should fear my wanting but ~ My body betrays me
A backward glance at ~ youth's distant, unknowing calm. ~ Older, not wiser
In isolation, ~ Darkness licks at my edges. ~ You herald the dawn.
A butterfly beat; ~ Trembling flutter ~ Thrills me
Your soul offered; ~ I have nothing to barter, ~ Priceless, precious gift.
Love's true barter ~ Show me yours, I'll show you mine; ~ Some things can't be bought.
Words tumble, ~ Mumbling ungainly joy; ~ My graceless angel.
Rummage inside ~ Pockets filled with penance; ~ Redemption found
Like warm, spring rain, ~ flowing through nooks and crannies; ~ You renew me.
Mother moorhen ~ Skating across the dank pond; ~ Serenity.
Tear down, brick by brick; ~ Shatter, shard, let in the light, ~ Beautiful vandal.
Shadow-boxing clouds ~ Skirt the sun, destroyer queen; ~ Survival; raindrops.
Scrub 'til I bleed ~ Grime and fight and pain, flowing; ~ Wash me clean.
A trickle of life ~ precious, tentative, fragile; ~ Sacred.
The ease of feeling ~ Your constant beat; ~ No need for flight.
Antique shackles break; ~ bonds release ~ the weight of anger.
A flicker; ~ indigo memories ~ a wellspring.
A scarlet slash, ~ a hint of blush, adorn; ~ yet camouflage.
The answers are there ~ just ~ read between my lines.
Kneel, anoint, ~ humbled without fear; ~ love's welcome.
Irresistible, ~ As the sun anoints the dawn; ~ A new day.
Lips and teeth and tongue ~ Burn me; ~ Lover, mine.
Uncoiling ~ this skein of sorrow; ~ threads of new hope.
Transfixed by ~ scarlet leather promises; ~ Heaven awaits.
Dark glitter ~ beneath your skin; ~ temptation beckons.
Pressed to my thigh, ~ hard beneath rough denim; ~ Second skin shed.
Alone ~ she dances. ~ Lost; and found.
In halls of blue, ~ Beneath the past's domain ~ Futures linger.
Live inside my soul ~ reside beneath my skin; ~ come, love; complete. 
Surrounded by beauty ~ if only ~ you lift your eyes to see.
The pull of this earth ~ more than home, blood, soul, being; ~ woven inside me.
Awkward, dissonant; ~ I struggle to get ~ the knack of you.
Your clutching hand, ~ desperation grasping; ~ beloved stranger.
Pare and whittle, ~ the soul's sharp texture endures; ~ ragged beauty. 
Pass by my laugh ~ pass by my scowl; ~ my heart halts for you.
Life, hope, pain, dreams, death ~ all pass in time's soft blur; ~ sharp, clear love endures.
As you slink and slide ~ from me, sly smile spreading, ~ I ask your name.
Muscles flex and strain, ~ pain, welcome, sweet torture; ~ scarlet symphony.
A gentle whisper ~ in violet dreams; ~ I wake, smiling.
If I stay, perhaps ~ it will not be true, my love. ~ Bitter truth prickles; ~ My cold, one-sided vigil ~ Hands sunk in the verdant earth


Sext (noon) - flash fiction

 This is one of a story cycle "The Divine Office" - based on the offices of monasticism. They are not religious stories - that just gave me a nice little structure. The rest are posted at MLA but I'm posting this here because I like it - and I think it works as a standalone piece. Sext is the noonday office and that is when this story is set.

Italy, 1944

--- Sext (noon) ---

The boat rocked gently. Warm, soothing sounds, the lick of ripples against the hull, distant humming from the shore, absent enough to mark the aloneness out here on the water. Me and Ray, side by side, his feet resting on my shoulder, mine on his, like so many other lazy, summer days. Precious moments of doing nothing; bonds formed in the silence of brotherhood. The sun pulsed, filling me, too hot, but the effort to move, to break this spell, was too much. I could drift here forever.
Sharp motion swelled, disruptive. Warmth became searing heat and the light, there was something about the light that pierced, no longer an orange glow behind closed eyes. A chemical white, harsh. It was always the light that gave a place its feel. No two places were quite the same; I thought this was home but the light didn't lie. 
Chatter from the shore grew nearer, louder. A foreign touch, someone's hands on me, moving, turning. Distorted murmurs, close, but I couldn't make out the words, a jumble of unfamiliar sounds. Flinging my arm across my face to shield me from the fierce penetration, burning against my clamped eyes. 
This wasn't right. This wasn't my memory. This wasn't how it should be.
Pain spread, creeping over slack limbs, frozen, immune to my urging to move, curl up, protect, fight the dreaming demons. I tried to call out to Ray, to wake him, but my mouth wouldn't work, the words stuck in thick tongue and throat. 
Sickly sweet smells hit me. 
I knew this; this was the smell of death. Was I dead? Was this Heaven or Hell, or just a dream that held me in its fierce grip. The deceptive echo of the ocean, the echo of home, faded back into sunburnt memory of a day too long on the water.
I knew where I was.
Ray beneath me, my fingers clenched around his rough, bloody uniform as he trembled in fear and pain. I covered him. Let them do their worst but I'd make sure he was safe. A flash and whump. Everything around me shuddered, the pressure of displaced air forcing the breath from my lungs as I heard the whine of the mortar overhead; that sound, blocking out everything else. Then the light, the unnatural flare as it hit. The ground shook, all else lost. No sense of time or place. That was when I started to drift again.
But it was okay. If I was lost, if I was dead, it was okay. My family would mourn, my friends would drink away their passing grief and life would go on. It was okay because Ray was beneath me, safe. He could go home. He could have the life he deserved with Lilah. He could have my life.
A surge of pain, spreading over my skin like a brush fire. I heard a cry, deep and harsh, a voice that sounded like mine, then a soft, firm tread approaching. Hands, cool, soothing, roughened with age, and a mumble of words I couldn't make out. A woman's voice, not young, accented, urging me to open my eyes. She wanted me to come back but I thought I'd lie here a while longer. If I was still and quiet and calm, I could go back to drifting on that battered, little boat. 
I don't know how much time passed but the pain stilled and faded, my mind free to roam. I couldn't feel Ray any more but I was sure he was safe. He was protected; I'd protected him. One minute we'd been walking along a woodland path sharing a laugh and a smoke, a moment that was the closest you got to normal in the middle of a war. But everything changed in an instant. That's what you never prepared for - what you couldn't prepare for. The moment when everything changed. 
Who lived and who died? Why? Why me? Why him? Why the kid from Oklahoma City whose name I never learned who only cared about getting home to help his dad keep the family store going. Or the sergeant, the professional, years of hard fighting and even harder living ground into every line on his face and every glance at the horizon. I cared for them, patched them up and sent them out to fight again, their blood on my hands. In the beginning it was a ritual to scrub away the human detritus that clung to every ridge and pore, under my fingernails, part of me now. Every day it got harder. The constant dipping into cavities that shouldn't exist; the hole in the boy's chest, still smoking from the shrapnel that had killed him, even though his body refused to accept its fate just yet. Still pushing and pumping and straining for life and breath. His eyes, dead youth staring back at me. He'd barely lived, not really. He'd seen more of death than life.
My eyes snapped open at a clatter of metal from the far end of the ward. Realisation hit - this place wasn't white and clean and serene; it was grimy, humid, filled with the stench of death and the moans of the dying. Harassed medics battled to keep on top of the tide, men, numbers, bodies, while a flock of nuns rolled up their incongruously white sleeves and delved into the filthy aftermath. 
She saw me struggling to rise, holding out her hand, urging me to be still as she inched away from the clutching soldier who clung to her, calling for some unknown sweetheart's comfort. My legs felt heavy and stiff, but at least they were still there, still moving. Fingers, hands, check. I ran my hands through my hair, wincing at a tender spot on my neck. I checked under the sheet, ignoring the collection of scratches and bruises, groaning at the sharp jag of pain as a twitch in my thigh kicked against the catheter, carrying its pink swirl over the side of the bed, out of sight. 
Shit, how long had I been in this place? And where the fuck was everyone else?
"Ray! Ray, where are you, buddy?" It was barely a croak but it jarred against the background bustle. The nun flapped toward me, shushing. Pushing me back against sticky sheets she explained my injuries but I only caught the highlights, struggling to work out her rapid-fire words. Shrapnel, burns, internal bleeding. Lucky to be alive. "I need to get up."
"You need to lie still."
"Ray Fordham. Ford-ham. He was with me… in my patrol…" She wasn't getting any of it. Or she was deliberately refusing to understand.
Again she pressed me back, urging me to lie still, to be calm, "Wait. Please, wait." She had one of those voices, the kind of voice a good CO had, calm, authoritative, expecting to be obeyed. "Just wait." So I waited. She would find out, or find someone who could tell me what the hell was going on.
Half-sitting, half-lying, I gripped the iron bed frame for support, a buffer against the swimming disorientation. Out of breath. All I'd done was sit upright and I was puffing like an old man. The awkward position took its toll in a wave of pain across my back, bandages chafing across stitched skin and burn. Pain was good. Pain was life. Pain was focus. 
A couple of bays along the nun was deep in conversation with a middle-aged man, pointing at me as she spoke. The man nodded, releasing her from her commitment and she strode off to deal with her next charge. I struggled to raise my head as the man loomed by the bed, pulling up a chair. He eased himself down, a greying buzzcut at odds with the purple stole around his neck and the battered bible in his hand. "Mick St. John?"
"Padre. Why..? Where's the doctor, or someone from the unit? I…" I licked cracked lips, the dust, heat, cloying. The chaplain poured from a jug into a beaker and held it to my mouth, helping me drink.
"They call me Padre Pete. Or just Pete's fine. I understand you've been asking about the rest of your patrol?"
"Yeah. I can't see any of the other guys so I guess they're all okay but I need to speak to them, to find out…" His head dropped to his chest, shoulders rising as he drew in a deep breath, finally lifting his eyes to meet mine. He had news to deliver. A stranger's wartime curse - to be the messenger of death. 
His hand rested lightly on my shoulder, experienced comfort offered, his voice soft but clear, "I'm sorry, son, but you were the only survivor." A beat to let it settle, "The raid was bad and by the time any help reached you, it was too late. I'm sorry."
I laughed. He'd got it all wrong, "Look, Padre, I appreciate the concern, but there's been some kind of mistake. If I'm alive, Ray's alive - he was underneath me when the mortar hit. If I'm alive, he's alive. Trust me. He must be wandering around here somewhere and just hasn't made his way in yet - or they've taken him to another-"
"You've been here a week, Mick."
A week.
Oh God.
"No. This is screwed up. You don't understand. He can't be…" Dead. I couldn't even say it. Ray had to be alive.
"I'm sorry, Mick." There was nothing more to say. The weary priest sat, waiting as though he knew how it would go and when he needed to leave me alone with my shock, my grief. As the shudder rose deep inside my battered body, shaking my head, shaking away his words, shaking away his truth, he relinquished his hold, moving his hand to rest on the bible, his lips whispering his prayer for the dead and those they left behind.
A stir at the other end of the ward drew his gaze, the furious beckoning of a medic telling him another soul needed an usher and he rose, "I'll come by and see you later." 
I was alone.
A week.
Even in this chaos, Ray would have found me by now. 
A week. 
Would Lilah have had the knock on her door yet? 
A week.
And when I woke up, I hadn't even known.
I lay back, welcoming the pain, arm thrown over my eyes, tears so hot they could burn through my sleeve. Still the persistent light poked through the shredded blind.
Maybe, just maybe, if I wished hard enough, I'd be back in that little boat, drifting gently on the ocean, side by side with Ray.

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An Unexpected Gift

The Ardennes, January 1945

It started to spread, belly, muscle, throat, spine, thawing, bringing back to life. Back from the dead, that was how it felt to Mick. So cold for so long, he had forgotten the simple power of warmth to make him feel human again. He tucked his hands under his armpits and curled his feet as tight beneath him as he could manage. He winced at the scratchy uniform chafing his thigh; finally he had thawed out enough to feel it.

He pulled the hay closer, tighter, smothering a sneeze. A quick glance over to Jack, checking he hadn't disturbed his first decent sleep in weeks. A shaft of moonlight cut across his chubby, not-quite-formed features, picking out an almost-dried tear track. The kid was tough, but everyone had their limits and it was this brief respite from their frozen drudge that had proved his breaking point.

Shorty snored. Loudly. That man had the rare gift of being able to sleep anywhere. Mick smiled, something else he hadn't done for so long it seemed like a lifetime ago. They had stumbled across the barn on their way back from another futile recce for food. If they'd managed to find anything of use they would have pressed on to get back to the squad but they knew as soon as they saw it that they couldn't pass up the chance of a warm, comfortable night. The animals were long-since slaughtered but their stalls remained, an unlikely sanctuary. Even the smell was comforting, earthy, real, vibrant, alien to a big-city boy.

Mick shivered as the chill seeped further from his bones, working its way out, making way for heat and life. The stirrings of hunger, old pain, the ache of loneliness, he welcomed them like past lovers, sense memory working its powerful magic. An image, stark and clear, a laughing French girl whose name he remembered only as a string of lilting sounds. Her welcoming body, creamy skin against the rough serge of her mannish pants, callused hands moving against his chest as she spread for him, full of laughter, full of life. A tightening in guts and groin as he ran his hands over his belly, conjuring her whisper, "Viens, mon chéri." Cold, hunger, the relentless whump of shells, all had gathered to render him sexless, lifeless. The joy of desire flowed as he fought with buckles and straps, fumbling, reaching, stroking. He buried his face in the soft hay, stifling his groan as he came. The wave of release flowed through him, reaching from core to tip and he knew that tonight he would dream of a nameless beauty and a warm bed.

For a few, short hours he was a man again, stretching out within sleep's comforting embrace. Wrenched back to unwelcome reality, he mumbled in protest as Jack shook his shoulder, his whisper an urgent hiss, "Mick! Wake up! Mick."

Mick moaned. His eyes snapped open as he felt the hand clamp over his mouth. "Shhhh!! There's someone coming."

Too-brief sleep cast aside, he tensed, reaching for his rifle, slowly, carefully. He clambered from his nest, inching toward the edge of the stall, Jack a half-step behind. He caught Shorty's eye across the other side of the barn and they stepped forward in unison, a practised drill, expecting the worst. They thought they were far from the nearest German patrol, but they'd been wrong before. They reached the end of the line of stalls and Mick held up his hand; they froze, senses craning. A quiet rustle from just outside the barn door drew their attention and Shorty crossed to Mick's flank. With a nod of understanding they crept forward, weapons gripped in sweaty palms.

The door rattled open, just a foot or so, then closed again and silence fell once more. Forward, step by careful step, peering through the early morning light. The sight by the door stopped them dead. No Germans. No threat. Just a girl, no more than eight, with braids in her hair and summer in her cheeks, placing a basket on the floor of the barn. Startled like a young deer, she jumped up and turned to run. Mick held up his hands, palms out; he knew she wouldn't understand him but he spoke anyway, "It's okay, sweetheart. We're not gonna hurt you."

And then she smiled. A breathtaking, brilliant smile that caught three young soldiers' hearts and imprinted her forever in their memories. She opened the door, turned, waved, and skipped back to the farmhouse, her mission of mercy accomplished. As their fear evaporated, they grabbed the basket, casting aside the red and white checked cloth that had kept its contents safe. Fresh bread, warm from the oven, cheese, an apple and a flask of fresh, aromatic coffee. Giggling like kids at Christmas, they feasted and forgot horrors past, present and future.

Sated, they tucked the flask back into the basket, checked their kit and prepared to move out. Mick picked up the cloth to replace it over the basket; as he shook it a scrap of paper fell at his feet. Holding it out to catch the daylight peeking through the door, he saw the girl's face smiling back at him. The photo was at least a couple of years old but it was definitely her. Mick stowed it in his breast pocket, over his heart, safe. A gift given freely, unexpected, welcome, cherished. As they headed out, hugging the treeline, Mick glanced over his shoulder and saw her standing at an upstairs window, waving furiously at the three departing strangers. He returned her wave, with a wistful smile. The nameless Belgian farmgirl who had reminded them all of the kindness of strangers and the power of innocence.

He would hold her memory in the dark days to come.
I am in thrall...

1. Senryu
Truth, fact, honesty
Each has a place in the world
They are not the same

2. Senryu
Child of my own blood
Memory, a daily death
Remnants of my heart

3. Memento Mori (flash fiction)
Here lies anon. His name was known but not inscribed. Unloved. Unmissed. Unmourned.

4. Senryu (prompt: recovery)
Old battles, fresh wounds
Healing's hurt, a becoming:

5. Senryu (prompt: strike)
Strike, flash, sulphur burn,
A match to my touchpaper;
Flame of love's hunger

6. Senryu (when a kind soul described me as a lady)
A lady by name
Frequent profanity discounts
Aspiration endures

7. Haiku (prompt: sideways)
Hard shell, tender beneath
Crab-wise I inch sideways
You draw me near

8. Haiku (prompt: sideways)
Your path pushes forward;
Against your grain, I can
Only love sideways

9. Senryu (Moonlight, Mick)
Walls of brick and skin
Barriers to scale and breach
Separate, no more

10. Senryu (Moonlight, Josef & Mick)
Chill breath on my skin
Heat, need, my life in your hands
Brother to brother

11. Senryu (Moonlight, Mick/Beth)
A lick of lip, trembling
Love holds my breath

12. Senryu (Moonlight, Mick)
His cloak of regret
Protection once; now cast off
A moment of grace

13. Moonlight (Mick/Beth)
In a stolen dream
Your hum tickles my skin
I want, love, need: you
Following on from my "Has it really been a year" post, I've been doing a little reflecting myself. Mostly inspired by rijane99's post about her life not being what she expected, but also by various random events that are, currently, my debris.

I warn you at the outset, I do not expect this to make any kind of logical sense. What's more, that's kind of the point. I'm a firm believer that if life, or more specifically, your own life, makes sense, then you're doing something wrong.

Some random truths about me:

I struggle to remember how old I am. I think that's a good thing.

I wallow in a sea of mess, occasionally reminding myself that mess is good. Messy emotion, messy relationships, messy desire, messy life. I know I couldn't have it any other way. That doesn't mean it's easy.

I'm a coper. I cope. Whatever comes my way, I cope with it. Ask anyone. They'll tell you. I don't quite know how I ended up with such a determined facade of coping, but there you go. It's all bollocks.

I've never had a career goal or ambition.

I want to be a writer. I have no interest in being successful (see above) - I just want to be good. And I want the people I admire and respect to tell me I'm good. Repeatedly.

Some days I make my way to work and ponder driving into a tree (see above re coping and bollocks).

I miss the intimacy and delightful complication of a relationship - but I know I work better on my own. Consequently, I am selfish.

I hate rudeness. Some of you will already know this about me. And the older I get, the less tolerant of rudeness I become (well the less tolerant of everything I despise, but rudeness is top of the list). So many of my online relationships have been spoiled by rudeness. I just can't get past it. Dislike me, fine. Disagree with me, no problem. Pick a fight with me, bring it on. But be rude to me or anyone else and I will always see you as a waste of time.

If I won the lottery, I'd never work again. My job does not define me nor does it fulfil a need I can't meet outside of that kind of hierarchy.

I admire lots of things about lots of people. I need to tell them that more often.

When I fall, I fall hard and true. I will never "get over" Moonlight. I don't care who thinks that's crazy.

I like being the smartest person in the room - and hate it when I'm not.

I don't know how I'd feel if something terrible happened to my sister. We have no connection any more; we are not present in each other's lives and I struggle with the concept of blood always being the strongest bond.

Ask me a question and I'll tell you the truth. I can't help it. I can lie when I want to, but most of the time I don't see the point. I'm happiest when I find myself the lone, dissenting voice.

I have a secret world of art and music and ideas and beauty. It's more real to me every day. I think I'm turning into Emily Dickinson.

In spite of all the above, I laugh. A lot. It's what makes the world go round.

When my mother died

I have submitted this for a collection of testimonies about Alzheimer's. 

When my mother diedCollapse )


Happy 25th Blackadder!

 Good God, how old does that make me feel?

Blackadder: Ha ! I laugh at danger and drop ice cubes down the vest of fear.


50 favourite words


I loved this article - some of my very favourites are in there...