Leaves

The leaves are lying face-down in the courtyard, stem-tails up in the air like dabbling ducks. They’re not dabbling; just flopped ungainly down in their red-and-orange pyjamas, making leaf-angels in the wet concrete before it’s time for garden bed.

“I’m not sleepy yet!”

“Look at me, I’m a starfish!”

I’m a starfish. You’re obviously a rose!”

When the wind picks up they’re boisterous, chasing each other around the courtyard and running up and down the roof — pitter-patter, pitter-patter — on their little twig feet. They know they aren’t allowed up there.

On wetter days they jump into puddles and make mud-pies next to the pavement, getting their bright new pyjamas all grubby.

“Who’s going to wash your clothes now?” the old maple grumbles.

But the little leaves just laugh and dive into the next bit of water. “See, we’re all clean now! Look, all clean and shiny!”

And they are, too, until they run through the gravel to cross the street.

They really do get everywhere — up and down cliffs, in and out of the river — getting caught in brambles and underfoot. Always rushing, always laughing; and laughing all the more when the unexpected happens.

The oaks and apples grumble with the maple at the folly of the young leaves, but there are smiles in their hearts. They know in the end the leaves will settle down and snuggle into the earth. Let the wind and the rain gently put them to bed.

Then the trees can finally turn in themselves for a long, restful winter, before the leaves wake up again next year. Hungry, busy, looking for branches to perch on and light to sip. Rested and calm and ready for a long year.

Birth of a Ship

The ship was safe and snug, on solid ground
With cosy chocks along the keel and bow.
A wrap of scaffolding and gantries ’round
And city power running up and down.

The engine block is in. She’s heavy now
Her gears and bearings tested, true, and round.
The paint on every inch of her is proud.
Pull out the chocks, and let the fog-horns sound!

It’s inches, but a mountain thunders free.
A blue mug on the slip-way — dust — debris!
The mass that moves, no human hand can stay.
The breakers waiting, break, and turn away
Under a keel sharp as Eternity
And might on might, the vessel meets the sea.

The Fate of Sword-Hunters

You could not be contained in any maze.
You only had to raise your hard right hand
And lay it flat upon the dungeon wall
To trace a path, inexorable as Fate.
That distant giantess may cut the thread;
You fed the present goblins to your sword.

They sung, in taverns, of a magic sword
Long lost, within a grim enchanted maze.
Rumours of rumours, but you traced the thread
To take a map from cold and wrinkled hand:
A cloakèd man, who met a grisly fate
Waiting for heroes, by a tavern wall.

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The Divine Vending Machine

The Adventurer, Issue 25, Year 3 of the Rose
Belle Stetsara

Is it time to re-think healing magic?

Healing: the curing of wounds by divine magic. It’s as ubiquitous as adventurers.

Wherever delvers are active, wherever there are monsters to slay, bandits to stop, or changes to make where the idle hand of the law cannot or will not reach, there are adventurers. And wherever they go, the priesthood is quick to follow.

Who hasn’t stumbled, wounded and bleeding, into the hasty A-frame of a frontier wooden shrine, and walked out hale and whole? Who hasn’t dropped a coin into the party resurrection jar; a donation for the marble halls of the Great Temple of the Green Heart in Towerburg, if the worst should happen? One way or another, we all owe our lives to the work of healers.

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The River’s Source

Lo! In the stream-bed    sun-scales glinting.
Grimy, the greed-seeds    set eyes aglow.
Iron-eyed, starving    gold-gorged engines
From the valley view    a virgin peak.

Pink sky arcs over    a pale-grassed meadow
Hollow cloth-houses    hug the fires,
Billys of tea-dregs.    Men talk of patience
Mine the grey eyes    of an old mountain.

Bright-cheeked but earth-blind    new chums eager
Fell for the hill-side    — suckers! Hooked in,
Dug through a dead-end.    Treasure lay deeper.
Shout 'cross the bar    for a digger's dream!

Rings 'round the moon    by near midwinter.
Water, glass-solid    stops the wheels.
From freezing gold-holes    boot-betrayed feet
Leave to her snow-clothes    cold Kiandra.

Entangled

Three rose bright in the morning:
The red, the blue and the green
From mountain, ocean, and forest
Each took a tune unseen

The ruby maid of the mountains
Played on a pipe of stone:
A song of the ice and the summit,
Where earth from Earth is alone.

The sequined soul of the ocean
Tolled on a sapphire bell:
A peal heard low, but forever
A single note in the swell.

The leaf-crowned son of the forest
Strummed on a silken string:
Soft as the light that dapples
Sad as a broken wing.

Note, note and note, together
Met in a burnished bay.
Lay, with the twigs, on the shingle
Spun in the rushing spray.

By the summit, the deep, and the bower
Ears and instruments stilled
Heard, by the echoes empowered
Hope of hearts fulfilled.

Feet on the stones, and the leafmould
Feet in the splashing spray
Met in the curve of the shingle,
Danced for the joyous day!

Three there were still at sunset:
The red, the blue, and the green
Moved as one by the music
Heard in a single theme.

Less than Living

The Elves were proud when conquering
They came across the sea
So long of life! So fair of limb!
They laughed so merrily
When they called us less than living,
Brief and brainless, born to die
Just the fodder for the fire
In a brighter Elvish eye.

The Goblins came in columns, cast
Of shot and brass and steam
And their shake-you-break-you engines
Left us dust and smithereens,
Each a number less than living
Brief and brainless, born to die:
The bloody hands and broken
To the Minds that Artify.

But the dawn comes all-a-sudden,
And a sword in every hand
And we’ll scalpel out the stubborn
Make them zombies where they stand!
Leave them truly less than living
Brief and brainless, born to die
To fertilise the poppy fields
The rosemary and rye.

Apostate

A loyal steed, a silver sword, a light to limn my brow
I left behind: betrayed, and bent, and gone.
Cast from the precipice, book, bell and gown
And rode, red-handed, with the dogs of war.

By moonless night I trod, a murderer.
Buried my sin unsaid, unsalved, ungrieved.
Broke faith: I burned its sons who still believed
And shut away the screams until they ceased.

Ahead of hosts I marched, and desolate
My hoof and boot and belly left the land.
Save scarce oases. Green stains on the sand
Where bone and basalt rise in parapets.

What horse’s tongue has touched my tainted skin?
Why do I dream of silver in my hand?
Why do I wake with sunlight on my brow?

Bouquet

Roses as red as a heartbeat,
Tulips, as deep as wine
Forget-me-nots, those eyes that smiled!
But none of these are thine.

Golden, the glint of the morning,
Diamonds, our lives at last,
A moon, pearl-fished from the ocean,
For none of these I ask.

Bees about ’round the pumpkin,
Tomatoes climbing the corn,
You and I, in the garden
And parsley, left on the lawn.