Poem 12

Chapter 12: Initiation


Next place,


Running and running

Gray-green skies

Tan dead grass

Scraggly trees.


Never night

Never morning’s light

Always hazy early evening.


A well, a tree.

Walk on.

A well, a tree.

Walk on.

A well, a tree.


I laugh and laugh.

Behind me, something snaps.

My prince stumbles


Half-rotting chest,

Maggot-filled eyes.


A mirage or truth?

The thing lunges.

Run, run, run.

No progress.

No sense of fright.

This thing may consume me.


Like a dream, no sound

No movement

Except the progress of the beast.


I swing

A fallen branch.

The beast vanishes.


By the well,

An old woman laughs.

Poem 11

Chapter 11: Ordeal


Alone on smooth hard stone.

No smell of pine

No laughing moon

No shadowed trees




Someplace like a mausoleum.

An altar’s edge.

Opaque dark.

No telling how far down

Down goes.


Wind like evil

Prying fingers,

Lifts and pulls

Pries and digs.

But, you must want to fall

To go over this edge.

You must give in.



Forever or a day.

Pomegranate promise

Sitting on one corner

Of this altar.


No dice.



There must be a place


There must be a way


There must be a next



No pomegranate promise.

No dice.

From the edge of this altar,

I leap.

Poem 10

Chapter 10: Resurrection


Twelve warriors kneel.

A seer tells all

“The lost daughter is returned to us!

The signs are clear –

The mark does not impede her power.

She resurrected her warrior marked for death.”

Rally in the center of a mountain.

Rogue fighters all around,

Winged warriors cheer.


I do not know.

No memory serves to tell

This truth.

Three women dead, or more,

And here I am – I made it.


What of my sister?

Am I my own salvation?

What now?

Poem 9

Chapter 9: Escape



We leap and hit the water




Lost Sister, gone. Left behind.

Grasp slips in cold water

Plunge deeper, scramble up.

Current steals us downstream.


Catch a fallen tree.

Grip the necklace like a rose

And scream.


The fallen tree slips by, no grip

Shadows fall on us from above,

Many hands take hold.

Wings stir air, splash water,

Deliver us.



Poem 8

Chapter 8: Return


I leap



My prince, no prince

Is back.


Strapped down

A branding iron closing in

In the middle of town square.


Cheers and ruckus loud around

Mage working magic black

Like smoke in rings surrounds them.


Dead – he will die. The mark

Will kill him. His magic is too closely linked

To flesh, to heart, to core.


His magic is a magic of the body – his flesh

Can sing, become a different thing.

From beast to bird to man again.

He’ll die if that thing touches him.


My right palm burns.

My left palm sings –

Lavender light flings

The mage away.

A moment’s breadth – surprise.

Too late.


The brand burns above his heart.

Death is sinking in.

I must chase it away.


Lavender light bleeds

From my palm into the knotted mark.

What else, but hope?

A wish.

A desperate act.


The mage is stirring now.

The crowd cheers.


Wish, hope, sing.

Impossible thing – he lives.

Poem 7

Chapter 7: Rescue


No sailors stumble off battered boats

To fall into lovers’ arms – not today.

I didn’t believe I would see him.


Another year – empty docks, another winter coming –

My only wish – that he is still alive somewhere –

How vain? How selfish?

Perhaps he is better off dead.


Walk home in the dark,

Moonlight flickers,

Torchlight flickers,

Strange shapes hang from trees –

Giant fish strung up to bleed.

No, humans. No, something like.


Three bodies swing in darkness.

Blood pools beneath in black stains.

Giant wings drape from their backs like grace



One of these creatures, these men, is still alive.

Cut him down, catch his heavy body falling.

Help, but help hurts.


A night of care

A gift of thanks: a necklace like a rose

Delivered by his mysterious companions,

A promise of help in dire times –

Just call.



Poem 6

Chapter 6: Test


Like a dream,

I walk through frost-bitten



Winter plagues

With cold and scarcity.

Rumors of civil war rustle.


At a crypt, now,

Midnight on a full moon

Lavender glow of magic

From the palm of my left hand

Right palm branded, burns

It’s half-working curse.


It cannot stop me.


Inside, the smell of flesh


Dust settled into thick sheets.

A fresh body with a ticking watch

Gold coins in a pocket –

Leave a few for the ferryman

And go.


Loot in hand,

The wife appears, moans

Like a banshee when she sees me,

Thinks I’m a ghost or a robber.

I’m both.

“You devil!” she screams.


Run, run, run

To keep the wolves away.

Poem 5

Chapter 5: Promises


A year exactly


I waited at the docks

For him all yesterday.


How, again,

Are we standing in this river

washing sheets?

Sister and I,

Never escaping this intricate knot

Of time.


When we were young

Sister would gaze –

Cast a net wide into the future

And haul it in –


This game she’d start in a mystical voice with a mystical phrase:

“Queen of the entire west that we have never seen

Where language runs like rivers from the tongues of poets,

I imagine for you a prince.”

Eyes unfocused, drifting in the wind.

“He will fly!” she’d promised me.


And now, the wind yanks at our hair,

Seeps time from our bones.

We, alone, stand.


That last time, Sister’s prophecy became a threat.

She’d said, “With him, you will see much suffering.

He will burn for you, and you will burn.

And, with him, you both shall rise from ashes.”


A dark promise.


Poem 4

Chapter 4: Marked Body


Basement, poorly lit

Candles flicker

One unfamiliar torch

A cloaked figure come bearing gifts –

Banishment and branding,

But not death, not hanging

From the highest tower.



Awakening, in pain

Heat crackles, smoke burns

Flames creep


Sister, marked – brand blooms across her lips,

A terrible flower, decorative knot,

So intricate.

She’ll prophesy no more.



I, I am marked too.


Splinter of wood

Crackle of fire.

Out, out, out.

Hide, hide, hide.


Wind and other things


Through woods

We sleep and lie awake

Lost in a hunting cabin

Moonlight slides through slats of wood.


Protect us.

Forget us.

Let us live.


Poem 3

Chapter 3: Refusal


On riverbank,

Side by side, damp from a swim,

I say, “Dream me a dream.”

Words tumbled from the past,

A game we used to play.


Some days,

Dreams were the only words he spoke to me,

To anyone.

“That we were free.”


“Dream me a dream.”

Tell me the truth of things.

Too old – I could tell that’s what we were.

The dreams were nothing fun,

Just aching sorrows left undone.

The game, broken.



Up, dressed, on the road.

“I’m leaving.”

Leaving, leaving leaving.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

“No, I’m leaving.”


Words tumbled from his mouth –

“Not safe…far away…come with me….

He’s hunting people.”


I didn’t.

And so, he was gone.