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.

The Adventurer’s Toast

Here’s to the days before the world was broken,
When foes came one by one, and none too strong!
Then Danger reigned, but Doom had not yet woken;
Then hope survived for peaceful lives and long.

Those loyal friends — they gave beyond all duty!

Here’s to the nights ’round campfire and table,
When pranks were played for laughter full and free!
Those songs segued to pleasant dreams and peaceful,
And in dawn’s clashing chorus, we’d agree.

Those lovers’ trysts — the last we knew of beauty!

Here’s to that hero’s era halcyon,
Before we fell too far, nor faced defeat.
Before the death, the torture, and temptation;
Before becoming what we tried to beat.

The Last Heir

Beyond the castle juts a pier of stone.
Stand at its basalt peak. Let eyes drift down:
The swirling vapours hide a gulf unknown.
To this abyss, the old king threw the crown.

Those were the days of wealth, and distant war,
But choices still were hard, and rule was pain.
The weary monarch cried at last “No more!”,
Fled duty and the throne, and joined the slain.

But now the war has reached these ancient walls.
The keep is held — by squabbling, shattered men.
Three blood-stained generals eye the royal halls.

Where father leaped, now daughter climbs again.
Above the stones, her parachute spreads wide …

The gates behind her crack; foes storm inside.

Wrong Questions

What else is power for, except to fall
And warp the natural order to my will?
From lakes I'd make a moat; from stones a wall.
Hearts, chain with love and hate, to hold them still.

What else are words, except a way to lie?
I name the need, then think the deed is done;
I call my half-attempted work a "try",
Then ask for hands to hold the tools I shun.

What else is choice, except excuse for pain?
"Here sacrifice yourself, and win renown!"
"Turn back? You'll fade. Go on? You'll strive in vain."
"Choose which to lose: your heart, or head, or crown."

What else is life, except continued breath?

It's only everything that isn't death.

Castle in Smoke

Would I could sing a universe to be!
By means of music, set my soul aflame,
In smoke describe the air, in tar the sea,
And continents of ash, let life reclaim.

Through primal trees would echo tread of beasts,
Till rivers trolls control were bridged and drained.
Their founding kings would lay out heroes' feasts,
Till fresh-cooled stones, by blood betrayed were stained.

That day in hearts takes root, and sprouts to grow
To legend, then a myth, and thence a song.
The theme that fire picked out long ago
In blood reprised, crescendoes, then goes wrong.

Its fuel consumed, too soon my world must end,
Or else on souls not mine it must depend.

For Good And Ill

Let temple bells ring rich and terrible,
In joy that we are safe, and grim farewell.
Life valourous, but death contemptible!
We lay in state a corpse of fame grown fell.

Here full has flared a courage past compare:
To plumb the depths arcane, and chance the pit,
In halls most fey, to game with subtle wit,
To taunt the angels demons would not dare.

Here ends the path ambition's seeds begun:
A youth naïve has claimed an epic soul,
A pauper has a hero's weapons won,
And riches honour earned, become a goal.

The hero spoke; aghast the cities stand,
Who learned the world was cracked at her command.