#writephoto: In the lap of the gods

Next WIP started and Sue Vincent has found a photo for her prompt to nudge it along.

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She follows with her eyes the sinuous line that hugs the contours of the hill until it disappears out of sight, to fall to the valley beyond. There is a plain, rich and green and on the horizon the march of low hills, blue in the uncertain distance. At her back is the sea; she smells the salt in the wind, feels its buffeting. If she were to turn, she might still be able to see the sail of a small boat, know who sails it, even though he is too far away for her to distinguish any feature. If she were to turn, she might see, if it were not for the tears.

He has gone, looking for the one who will take her place, and all she can do is send him a kindly wind and hope he reaches his goal safely. She wonders if she made a mistake and this place will never be her home. Would she have been happier had she stayed a servant to a brute but in a world she knew and understood? She looks down across the valley the herds of fat cattle, the sheep on the hills. She feels the peace that comes from plenty, from a land wide enough for all, fruitful and prosperous. There is song here and poetry and the children grow straight and tall. She was not wrong to come here. She was just wrong in choosing Caibhán.

She sighs and carries on the path. Beyond the bend she will be able to see the houses, the strangely comforting round houses that echo the sun and moon, the ripples made by raindrops in a pool. She will watch the children running, round and round in their noisy games, the dogs following, and the life of the settlement revolving round and round the seasons, birth, death and the successions of joys and sorrows. She will line her own round nest with comforts against unhappiness and hope in what the turning seasons will bring. One day, perhaps she will become a gull and fly round and round with no more cares than the choice of a fish.

#writephoto: Winged waves

And we’re off on another WIP. This isn’t an excerpt, just playing around with ideas. For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo prompt.

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All that is left of the great wave is a silver pool and the rippling fishbones of the sea bed. She wades into the silver, sending echoes or ripples rushing across the clouded surface, but no head rises from the shallows, no mouth breaks into a broad smile, no hand reaches out to draw her home. The wave has passed, gone, ebbed, drawing him and hope back down to the deeps. She listens for echoes of his voice, calling, but even though it was not her name he called, that bitter pleasure is denied her.

The sky fills with sorrowing cloud, and the waves roll restlessly. What has been done has brought no happiness, neither in this world nor the other. The fairy woman has him now or he is dead. He might live for ever in her arms, or he might be tossed into a watery grave should she tire of him, as she will. They always do. In her people’s stories at any rate.

She wades through the pool that remains silent, still but for the shadows she stirs, and a gull glides overhead, drifting with barely a movement of its wings, across the green waves. Something breaks—a hope, a heart, a chain? Memories flood back of the home they stole her from, calling her name louder than he ever did.

Nothing holds her to this place now though they would still call her slave. Nothing binds her here now that his voice is forever silenced. She summons the magic she has always had at her fingertips and lets it flow into the shape of a gull, a northern gull with memories of the icefields in her feathers.

When they come looking for her along the shore, there is nothing to see but a lone gull winging its way northwards.

Well water

For the dverse prompt. I wrote a first poem, and it was too long so I wrote another. The first poem below is the quadrille, the second is same theme but just a poem.

 

I dip a bucket fill it full

Of dancing, silver mirror water,

Ask the silent fairy’s daughter

For a seeing, bright or dull.

 

In the mirror-silver deep,

I see my love upon the field,

Lying on his broken shield,

Willow, clouds and blackbirds weep.

 

*

 

I dip a bucket in the well

And fill it full of silver water.

On my tongue are rowan berries,

Sailing clouds a story tell

 

Of wishes granted, curse stones cast,

Of mad hares leaping in the meadow.

Yet are these clouds of future dreaming,

Or are they clouds of dreaming past?

What Cilla did next

A short story inspired by August’s Visual Verse photo prompt.

August-2019-VV

When Cilla saw the ad, she recognised the cottage she and Jason had invented. It was exactly what they had talked about owning one day, when his divorce came through. They would lie in bed, in her bed, and talk, dream, pretend. The asking price was far more than she thought they’d be able to afford, but on a whim, she phoned up about it. The estate agent told her it was probably sold, the couple who were interested wanted just one last look before they agreed on the price, but if she liked, he would squeeze her in that afternoon before they arrived. You never know, he’d said, hedging his bets.

It was perfect, old red brick with roses round the door, stone flagged floors, mature cottage garden. The visit was rushed; she was shuffled out of the kitchen door as the couple arrived ahead of time, striding in a proprietorial sort of way up to the front door, happy, smiling, enchanted. He picked a rose and handed it to his wife. She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. They didn’t see her, but Cilla saw them, and the fabricated yarn of divorce unravelled into a shoddy tissue of lies.

That was two weeks before the holiday—he had told his wife it was a business trip—a week in the Greek islands. She kept the image of his wife in her head though it made her sob in hopeless fury. She saw his gallant gesture repeating over and over, their smiling faces. It wasn’t going to be enough to confront him with his lies. She wanted to make him feel as much pain as she did.

 

Jason took her hand and showed her the island, as if he owned it. Praised the scenery, the locals, the wine. There was magic in the islands, he said. He said a lot of other things too. She talked about the house they would buy after the divorce, described the brick cottage in detail, the roses round the door, the stone flags in the kitchen and smiled to herself as he shuffled and his gaze drifted uneasily. He had wanted to eat out that first evening. She insisted on cooking at the rented apartment. Just a simple meal, she’d said, stuff from the market and a bottle of wine.

He didn’t guess, she was sure of that. He lacked the imagination, but he was worried. She smiled a lot, more than usual. She was aware of it, the euphoria going to her head more than the wine. She wanted to laugh. Afterwards, she insisted they go down to the sea. It was evening, almost dark. He probably thought it was the uneven path making him stumble, low branches making him bend almost to the ground. By the time he was running on all fours, he had no idea who he was anymore. She picked up a stick and whopped him on the back end, laughing as he squealed and trotted off in terror into the wine dark sea.

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day…

Saint_Patrick_by_Boris_Anrep.jpg

Today, I shall be celebrating my country’s national holiday, but not Saint  Patrick. Just for the record, Saint Patrick was not some gentle, avuncular Saint Nicholas type figure. He was a colonialist, Christian supremacist, who wasn’t even Irish.

He wasn’t sent by Rome to convert the Irish since the job had already  been done by Palladius. Most of them were quite happy with their old beliefs, thank you very much, and Rome was happy to leave it like that. Patrick though, went on a one man crusade to forcibly convert the non-Christian Irish, and was probably responsible for the mysterious mass ‘deaths’ of unarmed worshipers of Crom Cruagh.

It is quite possible the yarn he spun about being captured by Irish raiders and held captive as a slave for six years (before his extremely improbable escape) was complete fiction. He had a shady criminal past which possibly explained the need to disappear for six years.

He was accused by the Irish of extorting the inheritance of noblewomen who he then herded into convents (best place for women), and ‘converting’ noblemen with the inevitable kickback for the church of a portion of their wealth. In fact, we don’t know much about what Patrick really got up to, where he came from and what his agenda was. He made up all the stuff he’s famous for, like converting the chiefs with his shamrock and the holy trinity analogy. It never happened.

And don’t get me onto Leprechauns! With the dispossession of the Irish aristocracy by the seventeenth century, the suppression of the Irish language and the corruption of the mythology by the priests, the old heroes and historical figures were debased to mini figures of fun and ridicule. That Christian and English colonial heritage again.

At the end of a week in which the British government after a mere 47 years of cover-up (or investigation, depending on your view point), has announced that one (yes, just one) soldier is to be tried for his part in the Bloody Sunday massacre, that his name is to be kept secret, the British taxpayers are going to be paying all his legal costs and aid to himself and his family, I don’t feel much inclined to celebrate any more re-writes of history.

I shall be eating a festive meal, draining the local supermarket of its very meagre stock of Guinness and thinking about family and ancestors. Not leprechauns, and not Saint Patrick.

Sláinte!

 

#writephoto: Omphalos

This is for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt.

bowl-on-the-moors

The omphalos of the world slowly fills with water. Rainwater collects in the sacred stone, and though animals and birds drink from it, the sun evaporates it, green growing things siphon it, the level rises inexorably.

If the omphalos overflows, the stories say, it will be as if an ocean of tears pours over the world. We will all drown in a welter of sadness. But who remembers the stories these days? Who, beneath the rainbow-coloured sky knows how to stop the rising of the waters of oblivion? Who recalls the lighting of the fires to celebrate the return of the sun, the leaping flames that dry the sadness of the waters and fill their smooth, unruffled surface with the dance of life and the song of firebirds?

Perhaps, somewhere, the memory lives on. Perhaps it will awake and we will remember.

Meanwhile, the waters rise, the omphalos fills with tears, and the earth sleeps.

#writephoto: Snow giants

This short piece is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. It’s a really beautiful photo, but somehow it didn’t inspire a specific story, just this rather general disaster scenario.

horizon1

Once it was a land of rich meadows, but the mountains are cruel. Each winter the snow giants hurl tempests of ice and snow into the valleys and the meltwater floods the plain in spring. The meadows are full of water now. The cattle’s hooves rot in the damp mud and the wind sings, unbroken across the plain where nothing grows except marsh grass.

Every winter, the mountains stride closer, and in the spring their heads are wreathed in freezing mist that the sun never warms. The lands of men shrink inexorably and their children die of damp fever. Soon, perhaps, the winter will come that will never end, spring will never thaw the ice that covers the plain, and the snow giants will inherit the earth.

Flash fiction: Parting

This is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt #writephoto

crow

Her sons were waiting. Their chariots were harnessed, and the lios was a sea of men, horses and hounds.

“Don’t go,” she whispered to Diarmuid. “There’s no need. Let the old man rant. He can do us no harm.”

Diarmuid took her in his arms. “I must. If Conor brings his men across the river I shall have no choice but to fight him.”

Her fingers clutched the rough wool of his cloak, wishing she had the strength to hook her fingers into his flesh and hold him there.

“He promised,” she said.

“And he broke his word.”

Diarmuid held her away from him and smiled. She looked into his face and counted the wrinkles round his eyes, the silver hairs in the black. She would like to kiss every one before he left, but there was no time. Too many years they had been together for there to be any farewell that would ease the pain. She turned away so he would not see her sorrow. The sorrow of an old woman who could not bear that he might not come back.

The noise of the parting warriors masked the sound of beating wings. Her tears blurred the sight of the raven that settled on the ridgepole of the house. When Diarmuid returned it was upon his shield.