Wisdom of the Graying

The hum of the freeway,
the silent flesh of another day
shifting to gray.
It all becomes narrow,
an ancient corridor
where you sift through
the leftover murmurs
of some grand architecture.

Voices collect within
the window, and birds
flap eagerly across
the sun’s faded stare.
But nothing comes for you.
No dream or epiphany
rushes through your skin.
The weekend has shrunk
once again, and things are
still incomplete. Or unfound.
And the birds and voices
have already become
smaller than the past. And this
poem becomes the moment
because it can’t be anything
else or more, just as the sun
disappears, trapped
in its own glow.

12-Minute Tales – The Gorge

“I’m starving. When can we eat?”

“My feet are tired. Why do we even have feet?”

“Where are we going anyway? I like our old herder more.”

The insipid questions just kept coming as we entered the gorge. I eyed the edges waiting for something to ambush us. Unfortunately, I had no other choice since not only was this the quickest route, but the stupid cattle wouldn’t be able to climb up a few rocks without stumbling. Thankfully, no marauders welcomed us, at least not yet.

“I’m thirsty.”

“We just had a drink,” I muttered, but the cattle kept complaining. If they were being shot at they would still complain about the heat. That’s what I hated about the cattle other than the fact that they were genetically modified with the ability to speak was the fact that they had no perspective. They had no sense of the bigger picture. They had no idea why I was herding them and didn’t even care to care. If they had it their way they would be on the other side of the valley, eating dirt and wondering why the earth was so brown.

“Aw crap.” The sun started its descent and we hadn’t even made it out of the gorge. I blamed the cattle who would often get sidetracked by literally nothing. One would often leave the herd to go stare at the rock face. A couple hours passed and the sky darkened. I set-up camp and shivered by the makeshift fire.

“What’s that?” But I didn’t answer the calf. I was pretty sure it was the same one that had asked what fire was the previous night and just forgot the answer. I turned to my side on the rough dirt and rocks underneath. I had a bedroll but I failed to secure it on my horse and before I knew it the cattle had chewed it up. Because they’re cattle. And they’re dumb.

But I deserved this, I guess. For my crimes I had to hide away on this planet and in order to survive I had to take menial tasks. The cold night enveloped as the fire shifted shapes quietly underneath the stars. I used to think that if I did A, B, and C, then all would be good. But now I saw no path. It was just chaos.

I felt the warm breath of one of the cows spreading across my cheek, but I didn’t want to open my eyes. “What happened to the sun?”

“Shut up…” As I said this I felt bad, but I couldn’t bring myself to rectify it. I was too tired. And like the cattle I was hungry as well. But, fortunately, by morning we would be out of the gorge, assuming that marauders wouldn’t get the jump on us first.


Written for the Daily Writing Prompt #19. The challenge today was to write a story within the Cattle Drive subgenre of the Western.

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

12-Minute Tales – Marcus the Magnificent, Part IX

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII

Marcus sat before the old man as the kindling burned, creating little warmth in the darkened hut. Marcus felt a sting of nostalgia, yet everything seemed strange, almost distorted.

“It’s an honor sir ta have such a great man in my home, let me tell ya.I ain’t worthy, no sir.”

“Um…thanks. But this was–I mean, I was actually hoping to find the previous owners.”

“Aye! Are ya on another adventure!”

“Um, sure? Anyway, their names are ‘Ma’ and ‘Pa’ and–”

“Ah! In all my 80-some years I’ve finally gets to be a part of something! Please sir, how can I aid you?”

“Well, as I’ve said, I was hoping you would happen to know the previous owners of this farm.”

“Ah, this farm. Lemme tell ya, things haven’t been growin’ so good.”

“Um, OK.”

“It’s as if the plants don’t wanna grow. They’re black and brittle. Say…maybe you can help me.”

“Um, look. I’m sorry to bother you. But I really need to know where my parents have gone.”

The old man smiled. “Aye, I think I know where they may be.”

“Really?” Marcus said. “Oh, that’s great! Please, tell me where they are.”

“Of course, but…my crops. If you help me with my crops first then I will help ya…what do you say?”

Marcus didn’t know what to say. His eye twitched. His face turned red. The old man squinted. “Ya okay sir?”

“Why can’t someone do something for me, for once?”

“Wha–?” But before he knew it, the old man was on the ground, pain flashing across his skull. Marcus the Magnificent stood over him, silhouetted against the fire. The great hero who has slain many a beast. The old man cowered. “Please sir…please…”

Marcus watched as the old man feebly raised his hand. Marcus’ fists unfurled. His senses were finally coming back to him. “I’m…I’m sorry.” And he ran out the door into the cold, cold night.

For many years the legend of Marcus the Magnificent was known on the lips of many men and women across the land. From the poorest of the poor to the high-born, everyone spoke highly of what was possibly the greatest adventurer. Even the old man in his final years would gloat about how the grand champion nearly destroyed him though no one believed him. “Aye, he would never hurt an innocent. And plus, why would Marcus waste time with the likes of you, a mere mortal?” they would say and the old man died with no one believing that the greatest moment of his life had ever occurred.

However even the brightest of legends fade, and Marcus’s was no exception. No one knew exactly what happened to Marcus. Last anyone heard he was on a “final quest” to find two elderly farmers. Whether or not he found them no one can say. But in his wake, the Age of Adventure flourished. Children everywhere were inspired to risk their lives needlessly after hearing of Marcus’s conquests. But soon, as those children grew old and their children’s children grew old, Marcus’s name was forgotten. Lost in the pages of some dusty old tome. But, his spirit lives on as the light settles upon the land and and makes battle with the dark. Marcus the Magnificent. Here’s to you.

12-Minute Tales – Marcus the Magnificent, Part VIII

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII

And from there Marcus gave-up and accepted his fate; after a few more years at the Academy he was a certified Adventurer. He traveled the continent with various other traveling bands. Despite the fact that Marcus never possessed any special skill or talent, Marcus somehow escaped death’s clutches and stumbled upon fame and fortune while many others, such as Selenious, did not.

Marcus couldn’t quite explain it. No matter how hard he tried he always found himself in the middle of some grand adventure. Once, while stumbling through the woods after inadvertently slaying a dragon that had been terrorizing the land for quite some time, he tripped over a rock. And, of course, there was a shiny little gem that had been pressed beneath the rock. Marcus knew immediately what this meant. He hurried through the woods, trying his best to avoid his fate. Next thing he knew, he was defending a local village from the corpses reanimated by the uncovered gem. And, somehow, Marcus saved the day by tripping over yet another rock which just so happened to have been covering a different colored gem. The “good” gem.

And so on and so forth. Until Marcus came back home to the farming village he hadn’t seen in over two decades.

“Hello? Ma? Pa?” He knocked on the door. He was cold and tired. His face dirty. He had seen many a battle, many a war, and had always come out on top, yet he looked like any other beggar emerging from the gutter.

There was no answer. He peered into the window of the tiny, dirty little hut. It was night, yet there was no light inside. Marcus started to worry. Was he too late? Had they moved away?

“Hello? It’s me, Marcus. Can anyone hear me? It’s your son. I’ve come back.” Suddenly, a dim light started to glow, revealing the edge of a face he couldn’t quite recognize.

“You best be leaving,” the face said. “I’ve got notin’ for ye here. So ya best git!”

“B-but. I used to live here…many years ago. My parents…”

“Wait…I know you…” The face approached the window. “You’re–you’re Marcus, ain’t ya?”

“Yes. Did you know my parents?”

“By the Gods! It’s Marcus! The Hero of the Wastes! The Slayer of the Golden Dragon!”

“Um…”

“Aye, lemme just–come in an’ get outta the cold, sir.”

A Certain Type of Warmth

A flooding
Of silent whiteness
Appears within this glassy window.
But something burns
Inside, hotter
Than any truth. I remember
When we used to go
Out into the snow. I would
Shiver and shake, but you braved
Those knife-like winds.
You wanted to build snowmen
And snow castles and tiny
Snow worlds to rule over.
But now this world is without
You. Just
Flat and damp. And the snow
piling atop.


Written for the 54th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest, the topic being “The Bleak Midwinter.”

12-Minute Tales – Marcus the Magnificent, Part VII

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

“We must slay it!”

“What? No! Stop it!”

But Selenious didn’t listen. Her blade hovered in front of its neck. The goblin shivered in fear against the trunk of the tree.

It was just moments before that Marcus and Selenious were watching with gleaming eyes as the egg wriggled with life. But as its shell cracked and pieces fell, it became quite clear that something was amiss. Instead of a young dragon, a tiny, oily green face peered out. It was a tiny goblin and its breath was truly foul was it burped.

Once fully hatched it explained that it was trying to get into the academy until some young spellcasters decided to pull a prank on it and entrap it within an egg.

“What were you doing around our academy, fiend!”

“Well, if you must know…” The goblin went on to explain how it grew-up with its horde of goblins which did nothing but rob and pillage poor farm towns. But he didn’t want to do this anymore. Instead, he wanted to adventure, and perform noble deeds for even the humblest of creatures. However, before the goblin could explain further, Selenious pulled out her sword.

Now, Selenious inched closer toward the shivering nob of flesh. Marcus shook his head. “But, it hasn’t done anything! And plus…he’s my familiar…”

He could sense the confusion wash over Selenious. She hesitated, but then she composed herself and straightened her blade. “Don’t be ridiculous. They can always get you a new familiar. And besides, do you really trust a goblin that was trying to sneak into the academy. He probably wanted to steal our ancient spell scrolls!”

“That-that’s not true! I-I…”

“SHUT UP FIEND and face your doom!” But as Selenious was about to plunge her sword a large hand grasped hers.

“Now, what is going on here?” It was Sir Edger. Selenious explained the situation in which Edger turned to Marcus. “Is this true?”

“I-I guess. But isn’t it wrong to just kill…I mean, I know it’s a goblin. But…” Marcus caught a glimpse of its ugly face which frowned and begged.

“Marcus,” Edger said, “you have the makings of a wise warrior who contemplates battle before engaging it, but it’s a goblin. And adventurers must slay goblins. Selenious. Please proceed. Now fellow students, watch her form…”

There was nothing Marcus could do. He turned away as the goblin let out a final yelp.

Salvaging Some Sad-Ass Verses

I’ve decided to look back at some of the poems I’ve posted here and give one or two a good rewrite. For the first I chose “Incomplete.” This poem was hastily written. Have a look:

Incomplete

Night hovering above
I shutter my eyes
The hum of stars

Night hovering above
Cold grass between fingers
All the windows are silent

I shutter my eyes
And watch the distance
Memory unfurls

The hum of stars
Echoes of distant violence
Long dead to dream

Either every other line is a cliche or trite image. Even the title stinks! This was an experiment in a form I came across called Troiku, but experimentation is not an excuse for doggerel. I should probably scrap it, but let me see if there’s anything worth salvaging:

The hum of skies:
echoes of distant violence
long dead to dream

So, I went from 4 stanzas to just 1. So already it’s better, right? Well, maybe. It’s still not very good. Notice some of the slight word changes that (hopefully) make the imagery a bit more interesting. However, I think the change to “skies” is a little odd, and lines 2 and 3 are still trite. I’m not sure if “dead to dream” is cliche, but “long dead” certainly is. Let’s see if we can make a few adjustments:

Night hovers above
you, hues your eyes
to the soft motionless
of violence. 

OK, more than a “few” adjustments. I’ve returned “Night hovers above” because it’s an okayish image and I needed something to help establish the scene, but I shifted the line to present-tense and followed it with “you.” This is to make the poem more “immediate” and tense as the reader suddenly dropped into the center of the action. Still not the amazing though. I thought using “the soft motionless” as a noun was clever, but I can see now it might be confusing and pretentious. I thought “soft motionlessness” but that’s clunky and “the soft motions” is weird. Maybe “soft motion” or “soft notion”? I don’t know. Below is an alternate version: 

Night hovers above
you, hews your eyes
to echo.

I think this version is OK, but still a bit odd and cryptic. Maybe if I give it a title like “Memory,” it can give the reader some direction on how to possibly interpret lines 2 and 3. Maybe night is forcing one to confront the past? The only issue with that is “Memory” sucks as a title unless it’s offset by something really interesting.

So, yeah. Both versions: not great, but they’re certainly better than the original. Probably should give these “spawn” names though. Let’s see…

The Completion of Stars

Night hovers above
you, hues your eyes
to the soft motionless
of violence. 

And…

Discovery

Night hovers above
you, hews your eyes
to echo.

OK. I’m not the best at coming-up with titles, but beats “Incomplete,” right?

Again, both of these poems aren’t very good, but I think looking at my past work and trying to break things down objectively could be beneficial. And, hopefully, I’ve inched just a little bit closer to writing something decent.