The Fortress

Hold my hand
Snake your arm
Warm and firm
Around my middle
Tuck your finger under my chin
Lifting up my head when it is down
Never believe me when I say I’m fine
Because you know I’m fine means
I’m finally broken and empty and so very very
Tired of being never enough
Look deep into my eyes again, again
Until I see me reflected
And I will press my forehead to your forehead
And together we will stand just like that
And together we can be our cathedral
And together we are a fortress
Of broken pieces knit together
Made stronger
And alone
Never again

Tilt A Whirl

It was never meant to go this far
Just wanted to fly on the Whirl A Gig
To scream ourselves hoarse
As the wind caught our secrets

You held my hand on the Ghost Train
It was never meant to go this far
Babysitting money splurged
On hot buttered corn and cotton candy mouthfuls

Cherry ice warm lips
Missing that last bus
It was never meant to go this far
Closer than close, the best of friends

Sawdust clings to our sneakers
Walking for hours beneath uncertain clouds
Still flying
It was never meant to go this far

The Door in the Mountain

“Enter.” Janx’ voice was terse as usual. Instantly I was a little boy asking for a second cookie instead of a grown man, a crown prince, a bridegroom. Even though our union was in name only, a year long symbolic marrying of our clans, I still felt I deserved more. More what I had no idea? Steaming, I charged into my wife’s chamber.
She was veiled of course. Her graceful back in a peasant shift faced me. Janx didn’t bother to look up.
“What is it?” She asked while writing in a ledger.
I banged my fist on her secretary desk.
“My subjects kneel when I enter a room,” I bellowed.
“Good thing I am not your subject.”
Janx turned and folded her arms. In the four moons we have shared I’ve never seen her face but I feel she is always mocking me. Or ignoring me.
“I am accustomed to being treated with respect in my—“
“Yes yes and I’m accustomed to having happy gentlemen callers in my bedroom. Your Grace we can play witty repertoire all night but I’m tired and you’re outmatched. Again what is it?”
I grabbed her shoulders lifting my wife from her chair.
“Wait is this the part where we recognize our animosity is really passion and we fall into each other’s arms?” Janx chuckled. I flung her back down and headed to the door.
“Camryn stop.”
I continued marching needing to leave our royal chambers, needing the sea to clear my spirit.
“Please.” Her voice snagged me at the final door. “I’m not good with people. I get tired and—“
“Become a right sea hag.”
Janx laughed and snorted. “I would have said irritated but you’re closer. Why are you so angry with me? Usually only my closest friends get this cross with me.”
I sighed, a jangle of emotions ensnared me. Janx has spoken to the weavers, the farmers, and all of the guilds. She has joined the council of elders and meets regularly in the marketplace. And each night we eat dinner in silence.
“ I see.” Her voice was tinged with a pity that stung.
I realized I said my thoughts out loud.
I ran my fingers through my hair. Suddenly I felt naked.
She doesn’t ask about me because there is nothing to ask. I turned back to the door.
“Do your people tell stories by the fireside?” I asked spinning to face her again.
Janx tilted her covered face. “Yes the Lynnx tell stories mostly during the high holidays.”
“Do you know the story of the Door in the Mountains?”
Slowly Janx shook her head.
“You you know of the man in the wood who guards the gateway and the questions that have to be answered? Do you know what lays on the other side?”
My wife looked at me for the first time. I turned and left our bedroom for the comfort of the sea.

Incantation For a Rainy Afternoon

Weave me a spell
Of titan tresses and heaving bosoms,
Of muscle laden bad boys with tender souls

Bewitch me for awhile
Betwixt misunderstandings ridiculous
And entanglements easily untied

Swaddled in shopworn cliches and shabby tropes
Embrace my tattered mind inside paperback covers
Enchant me into happily ever after

For a while

Onion

He could have had love but instead he chose onions. Sassy reds, sensual walla wallas, and
coy yellow onions lolled on his granite countertop. Long and hard, his Wusthof was slick with sweet onion juice as Chris sliced. Stefany, with the pouty lips and the annoying voice that always sounded as if every sentence was a question, texted. Again. He let his phone vibrate with her pent up frustrations. The open pickling jars awaited. Chairman Meow rubbed his silky head on Chris’ pant legs. Peppercorns and cloves of garlic were added to the onions and the brine. His phone rang. It was Cameron, his buddy. Chris remembered Cameron’s party scheduled that night, a night to slam beers at Cam’s place till you had a good buzz then pub crawl until somebody—usually Philly—throws up. Chris let it ring as he sealed his lids tight.
Once his fridge was loaded with pickled delights, Chris headed out to his patio with a crisp Riesling and a seed catalog. The Chairman dozed by the sliding glass doors and Chris lay back spent and elated considering going another round with pert slender carrots and satin smooth peppers

The Detection Club

The cold damp of November nipped at Jemina’s heels as she scurried up the high street. If only it wasn’t raining, if only old Mr. Oglethorpe hadn’t stopped her to discuss vegetable marrow recipes, if only the chemist hadn’t taken so long filling Mother’s prescriptions, if only she hadn’t spent twenty minutes trying on jumpers. She put on her Ngaio Marsh mask in the vestibule and caught a ghost of her reflection in the glass covered map of MeadowMarsh. Horrors. Jemina beelined for the ladies. The humming fluorescent overhead took no prisoners. Jemina shrieked at her own reflection. She looked like a waterlogged corpse. For seven whole minutes Jemina tried to dry her Titian curls with the hand dryer and paint on a new face. Stop it, stop it this minute this is not a date it is a book club at a library for heaven’s sake. Pull it together.
Jemina left the restroom in a gray fog.
The library was Covid crowded meaning more than three unrelated people sharing the same space. Weary mums halfheartedly shushed frenetic toddlers as aged pensioners navigated the World Wide Web. Jemina marched past mysteries, histories, and how tos for the Willa Cather room. It was empty.
Jemina took a took a seat on the clean but worn sofa. She was late and mostly likely the only one to show up to the Detection Club. She crumpled for a moment but then rallied. In the before times she had come to a few library events, local author book signings and book sales. But after eighteen months of social distancing Jemina was chomping to get off the sofa, meet people, get out of her own head. The important thing was trying something new. She fished in her copious rucksack for this month’s book.
The rain splattered and ran into slick dark pools. Mick pulled his hat down a little lower shielding himself from the driving rain and eyes of strangers. So many people. Mick’s steps sliced through the crowds avoiding shoppers and strollers. The sky was as dark and gray as his mood. Why am I out here risking death? Or worse small talk? I should be working on my novel or cleaning my apartment. I haven’t been inside of a library since I was eleven. Mick caught his reflection in the hardware store window. He was tall with horn rimmed glasses and a body that could grow to fat if he wasn’t careful. He needed a haircut, a shave, and a good night sleep or three. Mick walked faster, his feet pounding driving out self-doubt. He had wasted the morning trying to find a shirt that made him look good without looking as if he were trying. I know why I’m going to the library. I don’t like people but I like a person and after a summer of Zoom book club meetings and texts I want something real.
Mick burst into the library’s lobby with a Red Harvest mask and desperate look in his eyes. There was some kind of puppet show/story telling/enhanced interrogation thing going on with kids to his right and a bank of monitors and old timers to his left. Mick looked left, Mick looked right. With a violet beehive and a sleeve of tattoos, the librarian glanced up from her desktop and said, “Willa Cather Room, back left corner.” Mick thanked her and she offered a Cheshire smile.
Jemina retrieved Eight Perfect Murders as Mick opened the door.
“So tell me you hated this thing as much as I did.”
“I can tell you I hated it in eight different ways.”
Laughter splashed out of the Willa Cather room as the door closed.