The Stone Tree

My naked feet pressed the wet blades flat and smooth. Grass is always coldest in the shadow of the Stone Tree. I dreamt about her. Mother told us that anyone who cut that tree would find a treasure inside.

Last night I was a sparrow circling above the forest. I caught a bright flash of white and silver like starlight. I knew I could find that place again in the morning.

After lessons, I drew a picture of her. Her bright limbs reaching for me through thick gray clouds. I wept because I could never be certain that those arms would be able to reach me here in the darkest part of the world.

When I found her, I lay down in the soft moss beside her and slept.

These memories were left here with the trees.

{Some short fiction for the dVerse Prosery prompt. 

It’s meant to encourage poetry writers to try some fiction.  I don’t think fiction is my cup of tea, but the prompts are meant to expand our creativity by taking us outside of our comfort zones.

This prompt asked us to incorporate a line of poetry: “These memories were left here with the trees.” It is taken from a poem by the new US poet laureate, Joy Harjo. Her complete poem is here.

You are only given a few days to write it. Most people write theirs on the first day of the prompt! I like to revise what I write a few times before I post… and after I post… and three years later… I am always revising what I write. I see what’s missing and I add it (or not), especially with fiction.

Poetry is a little different. Because a poem is such a small piece of writing, I usually get the sense that it is complete.  

To be honest, I am certain that I am a poet, not a fiction writer. But these short fiction prompts can be fun to try, and maybe they will help me to develop as a poet too.

I got the idea for the piece of fiction above from a poem I wrote the other day. The prompt asked us to write in prose, so I turned my poem into a piece of short fiction.

I think the poem I wrote also deserves to see the light of day… so I will share it:

The Stone Tree

It’s been so long.
My insides–
like the trees
of ancient times–
are petrified.

I can count
ring upon ring
upon ring,
of gold, but I
am not that old.

No spirit will call
my bone white branches home,
or chew my silver leaves
When I weep, even
when I sigh,

always the smallest,
nearest creatures die,
and, unlike my evergreen
memory, decompose.

An Uncommon Request

She was serious as she approached the counter. Her voice was soft and low. “I need to know”, she said.  Then, hesitating a little, she asked if I could tell her about the dragon. Her eyes never met mine.

I know dragons, and I know people, but once in a while, they both surprise me.

She entered my shop during the winter slump. It was the week after all the tourists had gone, and the locals were at home preparing for the ill weather. She took a small flask from the shelf and filled it halfway with dragon tears from the spigot in the back.

Dragons don’t cry, making this a rare and expensive item. I watched her. I know every customer by name. She was new.

It was an uncommon request. No one cares about dragons. People think they know everything they need to know about dragons. Most of what they know is wrong, and when you try to tell them differently, they get angry. They stop listening. They walk away and never return.

“This one lived alone, as most do,” I told her. “The tears were extracted while he slept. He was suffering from allergies, which meant a runny nose, and tears.” I found her curiosity refreshing.

“Thank you,” she replied. “I will put these to good use,” she assured me.

I was silent. She continued, still staring somewhere behind my left ear, “Did this dragon have a hoard? He must have. How much were they able to take, seeing that he was sleeping?”

I was beginning to get nervous. Shop owners are sworn to secrecy. Was she a spy? Was this a test?

Something about the way she stared into the empty space behind my head, and the way her eyes were puffed and pinkish around the edges, softened me.

“He had a hoard of books,” I said. I explained how unusual this was, and how unappreciated. Unrewarding for dragon hunters, except for the tears.

She straightened, seemed taller. I wouldn’t dare ask why she needed dragon tears, and it turns out I didn’t have to. She began describing her life. Her loves and her fears. And how the one item she was forbidden to truly enjoy as she wished was a good book.

I had heard of forbidden dancing, forbidden drinking, forbidden love, but I had never heard this in all my years.

But then, no one had heard of dragon tears either. Or a dragon that hoarded books. That was even odder than the tears themselves. Odd, and, to most, disappointing.

”I have been waiting for these a long time.” She smiled. It was a half-smile, but a smile nonetheless.