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The Moth’s fate

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Moths cast shadows on the stone wall as they flew to their deaths. The candle flickered, luring them into the tower away from the warm summer night. The sound of their delicate wings being touched by the flame was too much for me to bear. Yet, I was bound by my ankle, destined to witness their fate.

A fate much like my own.

My crimes were simple, if not unjust. I was a tradeswoman, a silversmith who also delighted in the company of the inn keeper’s wife in my bed. They could turn a blind eye to my smithy – for in their eyes I was merely a woman playing at a man’s craft. But the latter was strictly forbidden within the kingdom.

Pain washed through my body like a hungry sea licking the shore. The source of the constant throbbing demanded my attention. I dared myself to look. At the base of my wrists sat two fleshy lumps, unrecognisable as hands.

Once, people had journeyed far and wide for an item of my jewelry. I was a master of my craft. My nimble fingers had moved over the precious metal, feeling the shape and the essence of its structure.

Then I would listen.

I could feel the tiny vibrations beneath my fingertips, as if the quivering wings of a moth were buried deep within a silver cocoon. Each piece spoke to me, whispering its desires, longing for my tools to help it emerge transformed. I would soften the silver inside the flames of the forge, then work with my hammer and anvil bending, shaping, tapping the metal, until every part of its being had been released. As a midwife eased a babe into the world, I assisted the birth of each creation, branding it with my own maker’s mark – a moth.

In the hands of the guards my hammers had bit down hard upon my flesh as I fought in vain to defend my smithy. When I could fight no more, I was carried away in the dead of night by the king’s guards, my livelihood filling the sky with black smoke.

And Ellyn – what had become of my love? Did she creep from my bed back to the safety of the inn, or had she too been reduced to ash and cinder? I sobbed into the empty chamber, grieving for all I had lost.

On the other side of the wooden door I could hear the footfalls of the guard. They appeared to momentarily falter. Clumsily, I tried to stand, pulling on my chain, straining to reach the solid barrier between us.

‘Please, guard, I have done nothing wrong,’ I spoke to the door. ‘Let me go, I beg you. I have coin: if you set me free you can have it all…’

‘Silence witch,’ he hissed, spitting hatred from his tongue.

I fell onto the stone floor as if he had struck me with a sword, my chest rising and falling with each cry as his footsteps hastened away.

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A light kiss of her wings touched my face, silencing me.

The moth landed on my cheek, drinking the mixture of tears and blood that gathered there. Gradually my breathing became shallow and steadier as I focused on the tiny insect. She stood too close to my eye for me to see her clearly, but I could make out the distinctive red and black markings on her wings as they shifted.

She was a cinnabar moth.

Her barbed legs tickled as she walked systematically over the contours of my face. With each movement she comforted me, like a mother singing a lullaby to a restless babe.

‘Thank you, my friend. I shall call you Cinders,’ I whispered before drifting into unconsciousness.

I awoke as a guard released my chains.

‘Follow,’ he commanded.

I stumbled behind him, reluctantly placing one foot in front of the other, descending the winding staircase out into the moonlit night. At any other time I would have looked at the full moon in awe, tonight it was just another face bearing witness to an unjust crime.

The pyre stood before me. The chanting crowd set my stomach writhing in knots.

‘Please, guard. Tell me, what is my crime. To lie with a woman, untouched by a man? I am no witch. I am a silversmith – that is all.’

The guard turned to me, his face obscured by a mask.

A small silver raven was pinned to his tunic. As it shone in the moonlight, I could remember how it had whispered to me of justice, bending easily to my will before it took the corvid shape.

‘Leif Brocksby!’ I gasped, ‘You’re a fair man, I know that. Please, I beg you – set me free.’

‘It is not my wish that such a fine craftswoman should die here tonight,’ he spoke measuredly. ‘However, it is my duty as the king’s guard to see you to the pyre, my lady.’

He lifted me onto the pyre and bound my legs to a post, hesitating at my useless hands. Instead he placed the other end of the rope into my mouth.

‘It’s an easy knot, Lady Smith,’ he whispered close to my ear. ‘They will light the outer circle first. A moth could disappear in the smoke before the flames burnt her wings.’

His eyes glinted as he spoke the last. ‘I bid you farewell,’ he said with a small bow, then was gone.

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Flaming torches were raised. I whimpered through the rope with clenched teeth as they set the wood alight. Through the circle of smoke that gathered round me, I could make out the faces of my friends and neighbours in the crowd. Children I had grown up with, now married with families of their own. I knew them all by name – yet here they were, waiting for me to burn. They both frightened and disgusted me in equal measures.

She was among them. I could feel her eyes on me although her face was obscured by a green hooded cloak. My heart faltered, tears cutting through the ash that had gathered on my cheeks. She lived.

‘Ellyn,’ I sobbed, as if calling her name would restore all that was lost. Then she tipped her head and I watched as the woman I loved turned her back on me. She moved swiftly through the crowd until the night swallowed her up.

I let the rope fall from my mouth and my chin to my chest. Without her presence, even my death was of little consequence.

The outer circle of fire rippled with heat. Fresh flames danced beneath my feet, choking me with their suffocating veil. But there was no escape. The fire would show no mercy. I knew it would eventually claim my final breath. If I surrendered to it now, I could at least hope the flames would offer me a swift death.

As I gasped for air, the cinnabar moth appeared through the smoke, landing softly on my nightdress.

‘Fly away little Cinders, this is my fate, not yours.’ I choked the words. But she did not move away.

‘So be it, my friend – then we will face the flames together.’

My bare feet blistered on the wooden platform as the flames licked the sky like a dragon’s tongue, spitting and crackling as it devoured the wood around me. I could smell my hair as it singed in the intense heat.

The cinnabar moth crawled onto my shoulder then traveled down my nightdress to the rope that lay by my feet. Around her other moths appeared, first one – then two. Before long I had lost count. They covered my legs moving and turning over the knot, consuming the fibers until the rope unraveled around my ankles.

Within the flames, moths were emerging, rising from the embers, each of them shaking the ashes from their delicate wings before joining the others in swarms. I recognised some of them: Gypsy, Lunar, Atlas, Tiger and Hawk, they all flew upwards, like a cloud of smoke twisting into the night. Thick dark clouds formed, made up of small beating wings in hues of orange, black, blue, gold and green – all circling above my head, then they moved out into the crowd.

‘Witchcraft!’ a man shouted out. I could hear the fear in his wavering voice.

The moths moved together, thick as smoke, smothering the slanderous traitor in their wake. The cries of the onlookers rang in the night as they pushed past each other in a panic, desperate to escape the mass of tiny shimmering insects that descended upon them.

Moths flew at their eyes with ghostly wings, entering their mouths, suffocating them as they screamed. Around me, silence grew amongst the crowd as the last man fell to the floor his mouth set open and twisted.

A moth crawled over his tongue and joined the converging swarm.

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I stood inside a dying fire. The cinnabar moth crawled down my arm to my broken hands. The swarm of moths gathered in formation, swirling and circling, forming a vortex around my body. I was inside a cocoon of flashing colours – moths of every shape and size flew past my eyes. They moved closer, tighter and tighter, eventually hugging my frame.

They were feeding on my clothes and the tufts of hair that remained on my scalp.

The throbbing in my hands was subsiding as they moved across them. I could feel their barbed legs walking over my skin, mouths tasting my blood, wings brushing my blisters and bruises and soothing the burns. Their winged bodies became my outer skin as they moved in a strange dance over me.

They were reshaping me.

Working my flesh and bone as I had worked a sheet of silver – bending my body to their will.

Then, in one swift movement, they took to the skies and were gone.

My nakedness shimmered like emerald fish scales, laced with intricate markings of black and silver that ran like veins under my new skin. I observed my hands, turning them over in front of my eyes, feeling the sensation as they swept over my scalp resting at the nape of my neck.

I looked past the smouldering fire to the lifeless bodies that lay on the ground before me.

She was standing amid the fallen bodies in her cloak of green. My heart leapt to see the face of my love, so that I did not feel the heat of the embers as I stepped through the ashes, nor did I feel the soft touch of grass.

As I stood before her in my pearlescent hues, Ellyn lowered her hood – her hair, once auburn was now as white as snow. She unfastened the ivy-leaf button on her cloak, allowing the heavy material to drop to the floor. Underneath, her body, more lusty than my own, shimmered iridescent silver. On her shoulder blades two slender wings neatly gathered, following the contours of her body to the base of her spine.

The cinnabar moth landed on her arm and Ellyn looked lovingly towards the insect.

She turned to face me. ‘The moths – they found me in the ashes of the smithy. They fixed me. I sent them to the tower for you, my love.’

I reached out my hand to touch her delicate skin, smoothing away the tear that roamed down her cheek.

She shivered at my touch and spread her ghostly wings before me like an angel. They were as delicate as gossamer silk, translucent and fine. I gazed upon their magnificence and fell to my knees before her.

‘My queen,’ I breathed, kissing her hand.

‘Come,’ she said, pulling me to my feet.

Behind us, the warmth of a summer’s day was promised by the golden glow rising steadily in the east.

In a flash of red and black the cinnabar moth fluttered away.

Hand in hand, we hastened after her – towards the dappled shade of the forest canopy.

To a land beyond.

 

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The Ghost Dog

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My hand was buried in her long black and white coat

She had speckles on her muzzle

Like tiny flecks of mud

Her eyes, chestnut brown

Hiding behind a grey lens.

She smiled, as she always did, her tail slapping the floor.

Slower – this time.

She didn’t spring to her feet like she once did,

Knocking me over as she span round in circles.

Her body was weaker now.

I stroked her, brushed the knots from her thatch.

She watched me without moving.

I felt her slipping away.

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She had a lifetime caught in her fading heartbeat.

Her love for us unspoken,

No need.

It was felt with a nuzzle, her nose wet against my hand

A paw scratching my leg

Tongue hanging sideways from her smiling mouth,

Panting.

Eyes wide screaming…

Run, Run with me!

Moments, stitching us together like a patchwork quilt.

So cosy and warm.

Quiet moments in the wilderness,

Scattering crows on the beach,

Rough and tumble.

Tears and tender touches in the quiet house,

Lingering on ‘goodnight’,

When ‘good morning’ will never come again.

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Each clod of Earth feels heavy.

The stones and roots below will become home

I cannot think of it.

Tears soak into dirt, along with rain.

Eyes, tired and sore.

Leaves decaying, the rich smell of death is overpowering.

Her body, cocooned in her blanket.

A note.

A shell.

A bunch of lavender, so alive with bees in Summer,

In Autumn, holding onto their scent underground

An echo of what they once were.

A last touch of this body before it’s consumed by the elements.

Reduced to bone.

She is my buried treasure.

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The ghost dog lives in

Empty spaces where she used to be.

I cannot look at her,

Yet her eyes follow me.

Everywhere.

As I get out of bed

Brush my teeth

Drink my morning coffee,

The boring everyday things.

I catch her in the shadows

Waiting.

I cannot bear to look.

Faithful, as she was in life,

She waits patiently for me in her death

As I gather my scattered pieces together.

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To be continued…

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Let’s create some magic

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To create is to make something exist.

Something that wasn’t there before. A bit like a magician pulling a rabbit from his hat, when we are in that creative space we can make the impossible possible.

How often do we indulge our creative self and value our ability to bring an idea into reality?

Not often enough!

Over the past week, I’ve had the pleasure to experience others creativity in a series of glass workshops I have been running. We have journeyed together, through fear and frustration to arrive at a place of satisfaction, accomplishment and pure amazement…

Wow! I made that!

I can do this!

I actually made that thing exist!

A funny thing happens when we gather together with others to create.

We talk.

While our bodies are busy with the task and our creative juices are flowing, it opens up a space to discuss old projects you always meant to revisit, but never had the time, of places and times in your life that had an impact – good and bad. We can lean on each other, be vulnerable, offer help and encouragement without judgement.

We connect on a deeper level.

It takes me back to my Art College days. We were a bunch of kids, fresh out of school, slightly bashed and damaged, a different shape, not quite fitting in.

Lost and dreaming.

Then we came together. We were given our very own space to create –  a little corner in a port-a-hut. We became a family. We drove each other mad at times, we hugged and cried, we inspired and encouraged. Frequently picking one other up off the floor when everything

just

went

wrong.

 

We created magic in that port-a-hut.

We made things exist.

I didn’t realise it then, but I was so lucky to have the opportunity to express myself, with the support of my friends, at a time in my life when I was trying to figure it all out.

Not only did I create things….

Those things created me.

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A boy called Tracey

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When I was boy I was free to be.

A shopkeeper asked, ‘Alright, sonny?’

They laughed.

For I was a girl.

I was Tracey.

A tomboy.

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Short hair, cords, my bike another limb.

Climbing trees, scabby knees,

Scaletric and Subbuteo.

Star Wars and Pac-Man.

A pocket full of string and things.

They put me in a dress on Sunday.

I sulked.

Waiting to be boy again.

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When I grew hips and boobs – always bumped and bruised.                        

They took me to get my first bra,

Imprisoned in a tight piece of fabric.

I took it off.

I couldn’t embrace Woman.

She was uncomfortable and awkward. 

Quiet and shy.

She stole my boy.

Bitch!

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I wore my hair in spikes to keep

everyone away from her.

The one with monthly blood and armpit hair,

The stealer of dreams.

I mourned for boy.                                                                       

When I was free – to be.

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But I couldn’t hold back the rise of Woman, however hard I tried.

She swallowed me up,

And spat me out.

I tried lipstick and eyeliner.

It felt too weird.

All those blossoming figures.

I hid mine under over-sized shirts and baggy trousers.

A tobacconist asked, ‘Are you 16 Sonny?

‘I’m 18. Oh, and by the way – I’m a girl. (Tosser!)’

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Listening to Led Zeppelin and Sinead.

They called me Bean.

Bean was me.

An artist,

A thinker,

A dreamer,

An adventurer,

A Stiney lovin’ kindred spirit.

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A guitar playing, moss hugging, castle sketching, jolly japing, journal writing, tarot reading, car singing, tea drinking, late night dancing, stoke the fire til sunrise and talk til we pass out, lover of life!

And a sometimes slightly moody Beanie.

Hmmmmmmm.

Quietly brooding,

Tick tock,

Holding it in.

Breathing through the shifting tides.

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Then a Mother.

With shaved head and dungarees.

Feet in the Earth and head in the clouds,

Daughters in dresses.

Twirly whirly, sequins, with stain laces.

We dance to the Spice Girls and paint our nails.

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Bean.

Sending out shoots.

Twisting and curling,

Flowering,

Fruiting.

Changing.

A Woman who was once a boy called Tracey

A Woman who is free – to be.

me girls

 

Changes – David Bowie

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A Piece of Me

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The toils of Man

The spoils of Man

The twisted coils that blind the Man.

A bird without wings

Dreams of flight,

A bear without claws

Powerless to fight.

When shadows rise up like a wall

Boundaries crossed

Childhood lost

Family pulled and pulled.

And home – home is a fragile word

A finely woven girdle of roots

A gossamer veil lost to the wind

A small breath released

Yet never inhaled

‘Run away child – run while you can!’

You hear the Earth whisper,

‘You are, my Husband, my Wife

My Brother, my Sister.

I am your home, wherever you roam.’

Fingertips searching

A trinket hidden in your pockets deep

Buried like bones

Together we weep

We grieve

Of what was not to be,

Of ‘Once upon a times,’ and ‘Long, long agos.’

You can take a piece of me.

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Writer, may I introduce you to Artist

This week, I’ve been struggling to visualise Sylvie in my current WIP, ‘The Lost Song’. She’s been a bit of a blur, not settling in my minds eye.

While she appears as a silver Maine Coon cat in this world, in another world she’s a teenage girl.

My artist self instinctively reached out for a pencil and a sketch pad, and within a few hours and many drafts, Sylvie started to come though, and with her came a sense of clarity.

I don’t know why I haven’t ever really introduced the Writer and the Artist together before. Until now they have been working independently to one another, often they are happier that way – they can be solitary birds sometimes.

However, I’m kind of hoping they may wish to become more acquainted from now on. It has inspired me to sketch other characters and scenes within The Lost Song.

The meeting of writer and artist could prove to be most fruitful indeed!

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I Wonder, I Wander

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Thoughts are like jumping beans. They do not work logically from A to  B – linear, as you would expect. Instead they take us through tight spaces and over prickly bushes, under the deepest darkest blankets, eventually arriving at some kind of conclusion.

As Mr Tolkien once said, ‘Not all those who wander are lost,’ often wandering is the surest way to find enlightenment. There is something that happens to the thought process when you walk and talk at the same time. The act of involving your limbs seems to bring forth new ideas and find ways of resolving problems. I wonder if our logical minds are so busy with the physical body that our thoughts are free for a moment to wander about and play, like children set loose in a forest.

So, if you find yourself stuck in a tricky situation, take yourself out for a wander and listen to your thoughts.

Writing needs a little nudge every now and again. Often our logical minds get too involved in a story and start to confuse things. In my experience writing is not a logical process. It is thought in its purest form, so it’s very messy indeed.

I feel that my job as a writer, is to allow my thoughts to wander, to take me into those sticky situations, those deepest darkest places. And I will follow and listen as they talk. Taking note of their wisdom.

I wonder if  thoughts come from our hearts, not our heads.

Which is why we have crazy thoughts sometimes, ones that our logical minds have to work really hard to rationalise. And if they can’t, the thoughts are dismissed.

A writer takes those thoughts, those waifs and strays, and nurtures them. Breathing life into those weird and wonderful misfits, giving them a voice.

Which in turn is why a reader gains so much pleasure from being led into another world. It’s a direct connection with thought.

A connection to our heart’s desire.

I wonder.

Hmmmm….

I wander.

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The Briar and The Mouse

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On reflection – all things said,
I should take heed where my feet tread.
Off the beaten path they roamed
Far from comforts of my home.
They led me to a patch of briar,
That really was not my desire.
It snagged and caught me in its trap,
My mouth did scream, my arms did flap.
It was no use. My cries were futile,
When, before my eyes a wee mouse did pootle.
‘Help me,’ I gasped, ‘I think I’m stuck!’
The mouse replied, ‘What rotten luck.
You know, you should not fight and struggle.’
Then the mouse hopped over and gave me a cuddle.
My body relaxed where I was braced,
His little arms wrapped round my waist.
With my tiny friend right by my side
I breathed though the pain. I laughed, I cried.
Through the pressing doom and gloom,
I saw red roses start to bloom.
The thorny stems about all loosened,
Which brought me to this neat conclusion:
If ever I’m bound by my own resistance
It’s okay to ask for a little assistance.
And the mess in which I often tangle,
May not seem so bad from a different angle.
So, next time my feet they do wander,
Of that bothersome briar I shall but ponder.
Not to struggle against its painful hold,
But relax and let the mess unfold.
For beauty lies in the strangest of places,
And comfort is found in the tiniest embraces.

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Plastic Sea

A polymer tide touches the shore
Finally Llyr can take no more.
Riding the breaking waste
Of bottles, rubber soles, bags displaced
Things of no consequence that nobody needs,
Or that never should have taken seed.
Llyr rages like thunder, “What have you done?
You’ve littered the Land with your things by the tonne,
Now you dare to discard what you no longer crave
And leave it to rot in a watery grave.
But rot it does not, for billions of years
This stuff won’t simply disappear.
Enough of this nonsense – it’s time to stop!
You can’t bury your crap in my world – you cannot!
It’s strangling and tangling the whales and the turtles
Suffocating them, filling their bellies with nurdles.
Particles of petrochemical waste
Leaves a decidedly nasty aftertaste.
Within the folds of time Mankind is young
Like a child you’re still learning your right from your wrong.
But I think you forgot
(or perhaps you’re losing the plot?)
I’ll remind you: you’re a visitor – nothing more
It’s not right to destroy what is not rightly yours.
So, please, Mankind, hear my warning – take heed
Or we’ll all drown in your shitty convenience greed
In your rubbishy, self-inflicted pollution
Put your heads together NOW and find a solution!’
LLyr disappeared beneath the sea of plastic
Muttering, ‘This situation couldn’t get more drastic.’
A polystyrene cup floats by on the swell
‘Will the fools listen – I guess time will tell.
Their actions will decide their fate
So they’d better act now, before it’s too bloody late.’

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The Little Things

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I resolutely resolve to not try and change a thing about myself during the next year and instead quietly enjoy my small moments of achievements.

Why must I feel bad for not losing that extra stone in weight that I’ve been carrying for that last six- years? Or for not working harder – or not cleaning out my fridge!

We’re all quite good at disappointing ourselves for not reaching our goals and not so good at congratulating ourselves for the smaller and more subsequently far braver things that we do on a daily basis.

We might take time out of a busy day to enjoy a quiet moment, despite the disapproval it might receive, and still manage to feel bad about it, or politely decline a request to do something (after all, it’s okay to say no) and feel guilty that we’ve let somebody down. Instead, why can we not look upon these things as positive actions of self-preservation and give ourselves a pat on the back?

So, this year, lets congratulate ourselves for the small things we do manage to do, rather than burden ourselves with unrealistic expectations.

I should’ve been working on my novel this morning, but instead i’ve been pondering and writing this post.

No…

I’ve just written 208 words this morning before the day has begun. Good on me!

Small achievements should never go unnoticed.

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