The Singing Heart

image from pixabay

The crowd stared at the naked young man, at the heart beating outside his skin, as it had since birth, and at the well behind him, from which he had been extracted by the elders. Twenty years ago, when he’d gone missing, an inhuman singing began here at the well at the center of the village. A chanting in the night.

The pastry chef, who was awake at odd hours preparing his sweets, heard it first and woke his wife. She told the neighbors, and soon everyone was listening in the dark, losing sleep.

By God’s grace, a small hunting party returned from the woods with news of demons–demons with hearts beating outside their scaly chests, singing a cryptic but pertinent riddle for the discerning:

Only mouths are we. Who sings the distant heart which safely exists in the center of all things?

{This was inspired by a prompt from Sanaa at dVerse for Prosery on May 10, 2021. Unfortunately, I’m much too late to join in, but I wanted to credit the source of the prompt. Prosery is a regular feature at dVerse that requires participants to create a piece of flash fiction of 144 words or less, using a line of poetry that is provided. In this case, the line is from “Heartbeat” by Rainer Maria Rilke. The line: Only mouths are we. Who sings the distant heart which safely exists in the center of all things? must be unaltered and included in the total word count.}

A Fool’s Gift

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Holy Fool Surrounded by Pilgrims (1872) by Vasily Perov

You delight in tales,
not history or achievements,
in parables ancient and abstract.
Your ways are bloodless.

Fearing nothing but God
and your own human heart,
you are no mere jester,
no sophisticated mime,
or vulgar clown.

The face of a fool is intimate,
not subtle, not philosophical.
You are gifted, though, and deft
at unraveling mystery and depth,
at exchanging rhetoric for art.

{This poem was inspired by the dVerse prompt which asks us to:

Write a poem using the word clown or a word – real or created – with clown as the root.

I am not at all a fan of clowns. I find them quite frightening.

Some poets decided to go the horror route with this prompt. Some went political. (Clowns and politicians just go hand in hand don’t they?)

Mine went a different direction. The Fool fits loosely under the clown category. I have always been intrigued by the archetype of the Fool, and in particular the Holy Fool.

There are many representations of the Fool throughout literature. Shakespeare’s plays feature these types of characters. There’s a Fool card in the tarot. And of course there were many saints who were honored with the title within the Eastern Orthodox Church. (In the Western Church we have St. Francis of Assisi as an example.)

The Holy Fool was known to do outrageous (and occasionally humorous) acts. Many had colorful or controversial pasts.

The concept of the Holy Fool is based, in part, on scriptures such as:

God chooses “the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Here are a two great reads on the subject:

The Holy Fool (at Image Journal)

St. Simeon the Holy Fool (at Ship of Fools)

There are so many manifestations of the Fool. It’s a fascinating subject.}

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.