I wrote this for the Brilliant Flash Fiction contest—a short story in less than 500 word on the theme: Aftermath. It was a bit of a cheat really since they specifically didn’t want poetry and this comes damn close. The phrases don’t rhyme, but they follow a strict meter that you can hear if you read it aloud. To spare you the effort, I’ve broken it down here into lines, so it doesn’t look like a story anymore, but you get the idea.
Needless to say it didn’t win and only made the long list, but I was pleased it was accepted at all. You can read the winning stories here. The first prize is about a fox, so you can’t say fairer than that.
He told her it was over, he’d be gone before the morning…
so she took him by the hand, and she led him through the garden,
and she sat him down beside her on the bank beneath the alders,
where the dog fox, like a shadow, slipped, and river water murmured.
She pointed through the branches to the stars that filled the night sky,
at the multitude that clustered, burning bright so deep above them,
and she asked him did he think they cared a jot that he was leaving;
would the light of even one of them burn lower for her grieving?
Then she listened to the river, to the lapping of the wavelets,
that the night wind brushed in wrinkles, running blackly through the rushes,
and she asked if when the whales roll through the green depths of the ocean,
and the seals guide lonely dead souls to the islands in the sea mists,
would his words then have more substance than the laughter of a seagull?
He sat in sullen silence, eyes cast down to where his fingers
twisted idle stalks of kingcups, plucked their petals, golden showers,
so he did not see the stars nor did he care how many watched him,
as he plucked the yellow petals, scattered gold among the rushes.
He could not hear the river, with her words that rang so loudly,
when he’d thought to see her flounder in the high seas of his leaving,
see the world he gave her crumble, dry dust blowing in the storm wind,
and her dull eyes full of weeping, no reflected light to bask in,
for he’d taken back his aura and the sunshine of his smile.
In the silence of his answers, she took from her slender finger
the gold ring and held its roundness, so she saw the stars behind it,
silver fish in inky waters. Like a well, run dry and empty,
it was hollow as a dead tree, and she cast it in the river
where the trout would nose the glitter of a circle made of sunlight
that was bright as any minnow but without a heart’s pulse in it.
She heard his parting footsteps through the rushes and the kingcups,
and she raised her head to count the stars that glittered in the sky.
Through her tears that made a sea of silver water of their glimmer,
not a one she saw was dimmer though his love had shrunk away,
so she wiped away her sadness, and she plucked a golden kingcup,
while a vixen called the dog fox from among the starlit alders.
She listened to the beauty of the foxes’ wild, sweet love song,
as eternal as the river running ever to the sea,
like the stars that guide the grey gull to the isles where dreams are mended,
and she set her face to morning with the fierce, red dawn light breaking,
kingcups twisted in her hair and all love’s sorrow stripped away.