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.

Healed

A child is standing in a gilded church
staring at the backs of strangers
all crowded together
in heavy winter coats,
hands by their sides,
until they make the sign of peace.

She silently mouths the words
to the hymn she knows by heart,
but is too shy to sing aloud–
We hold a treasure, not made of gold…
She is thinking about school,
about a girl in her class
with bright, orange-gold hair.

“It’s red, not orange!” the girl snaps,
and shows off her new necklace
from Hawaii. And the child wonders
why she can’t have hair like that–
like the color of volcanic fire.
Why is her own hair so brown?

The voice behind her is a tenor.
The priest is wearing purple–
the color of royalty.
The gold felt banner by the altar reads: Celebrate!
Her hair is brown like the pews,
like the soft, leather kneelers.

Earthen vessels…She mouths the words.
Her hair is the color of earth,
the color of the ceramic jug
in the corner of the basement
covered with dust and daddy long legs.
Wealth untold…the hymn says.

“I am not worthy,” speaks the congregation in unison.
And for one moment, the child feels worthy.
Because none are worthy.
And she joins in this time, on cue,
“But only say the word…
and I shall be healed.”

[Communion, from The Hours of Catherine Cleves]
{Linking to dVerse for open link night. The final words of this (autobiographical) poem are a bit strange, unless you’re a Catholic. Here is a good explanation. Here is a link to the hymn, Earthen Vessels: https://youtu.be/IAZhIw49ULc }

Shelter Cat {a rubaiyat}

A cat is curled and sleeping. His clipped ear 
shows. “That’s how we know,” a volunteer 
explained. (It’s all the information we gain)
In his new home he dreams about the year—

twitching, crying out, remembering rain.
His sunny lanai is serene. Then hurricane.
A neighbor child hoots and screeches. Fast
and blatantly brash. It’s her domain.

Repeating words again and again. Outcast.
”Play elsewhere”, they tell young enthusiast.
From carpet austere, cat listens. Places one
mushroom colored paw over his ears at last.

But now is the soft sound of day being done.
All the leaves have fallen, red as the sun.
Grass grown. Engines down. Darkness begun,
waking the cat and the night in unison.

{The rubaiyat is a lovely and challenging form. I learned quite a bit about its origins and about Fitzgerald’s work (a translation with a unique beauty of its own) which popularized it. I am looking forward to reading it in its entirety in the near future. Linking to dVerse.}