Swan Maiden

I will meld with you like rain in the fjords
flowing from high hills to halcyon harbors
once I was wolf milk, and you winter moss
we came from the glaciers to become swans
and when we grew feathers and flew, danced
arabesques over flowered canals in Denmark
roosted in the snowy halls of Skadi, wept
crystal snowflakes, birds of ice feathers,
and our necks formed a heart-shaped flute
enchantment is just flirtation, and we water.

Artemis of Ephesus

Gourds or breasts, they decorate your chest
queen of wolves and stags, forest your feet
so dainty-ankled, skin of milk, arms raised
in offerings of birth-balm and moonlight oil
robe of lions, leopards, and bulls, quiver of
silver sweet arrows set aside for peacetidings
you are Virgin yet Mother, Midwife and Maiden
patron of strong women and stronger maidens
we still sing your name in the glens, Artemis
of Ephesus, your quick-footed sprint of stars
is a Milky Way to your hunting lodge, springs
where no man may see you lest he be a beast,
lunar skin like cream, hair brown as a doe,
take this poem and wear it as a mantle, sweet
queen of women, patron of the curious, seeker
of sweet hunts, soft rains, and Leto’s blessing
I raise my amphora to you, wine for your journey
O Muses, sing of the huntress, sing of the Mother
and remember forever her grace, her pride, beauty
thick as butter, eyes amber as a buck, and praise
the mother of witches and guardian of the woods.

Fat Day

These tan curves and gold curls are lies.  I want to take a razor to the slope of my belly and dredge out my intestines.  Beat my brain on the pavement and screw pins into my skin.  Beautiful, they say, but I know I am ugly as the Beast.  That is why we get along so well, because I am the witch that eats men in the woods, seductress, your destruction, and my eyes are pools you will drown in.

I want to feel a gun to the head, just the weight of it against a temple to make gray matter a moon bow on the wall.  I want a razor to carve pretty lies onto my thighs and rest my decapitated head on my lap.  Monster, monster, in the looking glass.  Suicide, matricide, martyr.  I’m the mother of no one, but still they come to me wailing, drink my blood milk, and maybe I’m Babylon and a wild whore strapped between two needfires with albino crows, cawing in song with my children, but on the surface?  You would never know.

I don’t say I’m an enchantress, but there’s the shamanic journeying, the five-fold kiss, the familiars and demons and angels and gods all clashing in my head like the Wild Hunt.  I’ve gone mad, dreamed of drowning, thought of perilous calls as Hati and Skoll chase me through the tundra.  I’ve had the Devil play my organs like the finest of violins and still my music would be better if he snapped my spine instead of caressing it.

Divinity wants to break me open and suck the stars from my marrow.  I rant, I rave, I froth at the mouth – the true Beast is Cipactli, Tiamat, the She-Leviathan, a Mother of the Deep that possesses me to dance with wild abandon.  I will devour all and leave blank snow in my wake, Kelvin zero.  I’m out of control, and today is a day for damnation.

Slut.  Whore.  Temptress.  Jezebel.  Woman Clad in Night.  I will be the Thunder Perfect Mind Sophia, Alpha and Omega as I straddle the corpse of my lover and pound him into the dirt.  I am not sane, I am the mad she-bitch that nursed Managarm, Angrboda of the Iron Woods, consort of chaos but master of the giants that will eat Midgard.

Once I was beautiful, terrible to behold, a blushing Psyche, now I’ve donned the snakes of Medusa and I will rake my serpents through the dirt in bind runes to summon Walpurgisnacht devils from the mountains.  I am Terror, I am Fury, I am Wrath.  Scorn me and face the angel of death, White Reaper riding on the tempest of Satan’s heart, flame sword glory general of the Prince of Heaven.

I see through your ruses.  Your lies.  Your pretty words and cloying compliments.

I know what I am.

I am wild, untamed.

The beast in the forest.

The monster of my disease.

And I will eat you, madman.

All to discover your magic.

Lucky Number 13

#DVPit is about halfway over, and I’ve had some AH-MAZING agents make partial requests, putting the agents with my manuscript up to… lucky number 13!

I really wanted to explore my Russian heritage when I wrote this book.  I didn’t know I was part Russian until I did genealogy research after college – I’d always felt this inexplicable draw to the culture, and people had always told me I had a Slavic nose, and I kept dreaming about Baba Yaga sending me on delivery routes aback Grey Wolf or making me milk a golden cow with silver udders – but it didn’t really cement until I learned I’m a direct descendant of Vladimir the Great (Saint Vladimir) and Vladimir Monomakh, also this awesome cave prophetess named Malusha.

One of my dying dreams is to go to Russia and visit Gogol and Pushkin’s homes.  This novel wouldn’t have been created without Cat Valente’s unbelievably amazing Deathless, which really inspired me at 21 to finally write that Russian novel that had been in my head since age 19.  Dreams of Morena, Veles, and Perun would follow, and so would obsessively watching Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky ballets and listening to Mussorgsky on repeat.

I’m obsessed with Russian folklore.  Libby and I both took an entire class dedicated to it, and I lifted the name Morozko from our favorite Soviet film.  What intrigued me the most were the nechist, or land and house spirits – the domovoi and rusalka, the vila and bannik (why did I try to make a bannik hot!)  But above all, it was for the love of leshys that I retold an entire ballet.  Also for Baba Yaga, because my babushka is amazing, and crazy af.

Hopefully I’ll have an agent soon – I will probably spontaneously combust if I get an offer, but I’ll keep you all updated accordingly!

Tzohar

Rabbinis tell of a sacred stone
a glowing light Noah illumined
all the deep of flooded worlds
given to Eve: Eden’s last breath,
a jewel suffused with splendor
it holds the dust of Creation,
leftover starlight, God’s promise
possess it, know Torah, truths
so holy only the wisest prevail
in mastering the gem, bearing it
high aloft on an Ark far adrift
Abraham healed with its wonders
Joseph sought dream shards within
Moses found it in forefather bones
and hung it on Covenant pinnacles
crowning the Tabernacle, perhaps
it is the same heart that was torn
from Lucifer’s crown, Lapis Exillis
searched for by alchemist, magician,
seekers of knowledge, vain man’s ruin
I clutch the Tzohar in dreams and sail
to World’s Edge, scale cliffs, dine
with Death, play chess with Reapers
the prize is God’s christening gift
to humanity – I knock down a king,
Samael crinkles in a serpent smile,
laughs, takes me to the interior
of the earth, rectifying, the hidden
stone is mine, disguised in plain sight
and I walk through cathedral caverns
to return it to Man, safe from Satan’s
grasp, I sprang from the heart of Lucifer
because I stole his most precious soul.

Ghazal

Ghazal preens his coal black feathers, a runt of a roc, and my bosom friend.  We sit on the sandstone cliff face above the blossoming desert, my abaya whipping in the dawn’s wind.

“Habibi, you are lost in your mind,” Ghazal sings, looking out at the goats that climb the acacia trees and eat leaves too high up for ants to dream of.  “Rani, look – the griffins come flocking to feast on fresh meat.  The phoenixes are rising – feel the stirring of djinn on the winds.  The world awakes, but you are in dreamland, writing of rajs and saqis and the love between man and immortal.  We must eat more than your pretty poems.  Come, mount my back, let us hunt.”

I smile up from my airy perch on a boulder and pack my quill, ink pot, and notebook into my camelskin bag.  “You are right, Ghazal.  What would I do without you, dear one?  Though you are my wings, you keep me grounded.  Let us get breakfast.”

I fasten the stirrups along his beak and put the saddle at the downy ridge where his feathers fan out along his neck.  Ghazal is my bonded pair, my means of surviving this flourishing backwater, a land of spirits and ghosts and so many gossamer stories.  I found him as a small girl in my father’s kingdom, and I rode him away from my forced marriage to a cruel raj to this hideaway in the desert, seeking the sweetness of freedom.

I mount Ghazal and pull on the reins.  We jet into the sky and the sylvan dakinis sing as they sit on clouds.  I can hear the hum of djinn far below at their markets at the bottom of the cliff we make our home, and by now the goats are falling to the griffins in purple and blue and scarlet blood.  Some djinn ride camels and herd phoenix flocks, scouring the sand for gems and lost treasure, for I live in a place where many people come to hide things, but the spirits take all.

My midnight black beauty finds a leopard hiding in a hollow by a watering hole.  Ghazal strikes with his beak, a sharp snap of the neck, then picks up the cat in his talons.  Another leopard falls.  Two are enough meat for both of us to be made into jerky for later and breakfast for now, and the djinn always love their skins, which we can sell for fresh fruit and more ink for my poetry.

I skin them later at our wind worn hut and Ghazal helps carry the hides down to the djinn market.  We buy pomegranates and Ghazal swallows them in his gullet whole.  I use the husks to perfume my roc down pillow, and that night, as the Milky Way stretches out like a sleeping woman, I sing my poetry to my angel of a bird and we dance by a campfire, bellies full, hearts aflame.

I never wanted to be a princess anyway, and I was born for the wild lands, where spirits roam and true poets find inspiration.  My couplets and verse are carried by dakinis on the wind, by peris who come in caravans rich with silk and saffron, and I am growing quite famous in the human world, so the djinn tells me.

Rani of the Ruins.  Queen of Poetry.  Roc Rider.

Wax

Sometimes you don’t know the face of your lover.

I didn’t, just ghost caresses, phantom servants, a gauzy bed draped in silk where I spilled a single drop of wax.

I waited for a year to see those blond curls, the face between Adonis and Ares, for true love is sweet like flowers but feverish as war, and the skin tan with Grecian sun.

There was a scar on his thigh where it seemed he had poked himself with one of his love arrows, but other than that he was perfect, my Eros.

I died then, and knew the people who left me at the bottom of that cliff were right: I had married Death.  Eros and Thanatos are not so different, both winged fates we all encounter in our dwindling candle flames, and wax is funny in that it doesn’t burn, not really.  Just a little sting like a needle getting past a thimble.

The wax didn’t awake him.  It was my soul leaving my body for just a moment, to join with his and rest at his breast, because mortal forms can’t make love to an immortal, not really.

I love him, I love him, I love him.  That is what I whispered to his heart.  Still he left me.  Men are funny like that.  They ignore heroism in women, us baring our truths to him, and afraid of commitment, he fled.

I sorted seeds.  I met with Pan in my mourning.  I went to the Iron Queen and brought beauty back in a box for his tempestuous mother.  Unlike Orpheus, I wove my bright laurels out of a barren place – I knew he would only love me if I was as beautiful as Aphrodite, and though I was the most glorious of women, gods are still vain creatures.

So I applied the sweet hope Persephone kept on her vanity to my brow, and I died a second time, this time in Eros’ arms.

No god raised me from the dead.  That’s impossible.  Look what happened to Eurydice.  Raising mortals from Hades is ill-advised.  Eros is brilliant, and his arrows sorrowsweet, but even necromancy is beyond his power, no matter how much like Thanatos he is, and I had married the God of Little Deaths.

I raised myself up.  I sang to my stepsisters and the parents that had abandoned me, all dead now, for my travails took ages.

It was a goddess who gave me breath again – sweet Kore, who herself was abducted, and who I regaled with my tale.  We are kindred in that we both married the most dangerous of gods, and had our girlhood stolen too soon – by every sly look from uncles, by every groping of fathers, by every time a king took our adolescent forms on his lap and ran a beer-stinking hand through our curls.

We are spoils of war to them.  I did not want to be just another girl that lost her heart to someone powerful, some fading rose kept in a crystal jar, only to be watered occasionally.

I taught Eros of true love so that no woman would have to suffer at Cupid’s hands like me again.  I did everything for a man so ready to cast me aside like yesterday’s broken amphora.

That’s why I have butterfly wings, not a birds: because in the calyx of my divinity, I stewed in ambrosia a third death, Psyche Triple-Born, and I am more powerful than all the gods combined.

Wax doesn’t burn – it lingers at the back of your mind.

Love doesn’t hurt – only craving for a man unfaithful.

Women aren’t raised from death – they claw back alone.

And though Olympus is full of stars, my bed is very cold.