Isle of the Dead: Microfiction

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Arnold Böcklin, Isle of the Dead (III), [Public domain], via Wikimedia Common

Iona sailed her ship across the sun-dappled sea to save her beloved from the underworld. Iona had to rescue him tonight, for Halloween was the one night when humans could travel there. She traveled for hours, and as twilight descended, the Isle of the Dead appeared in front of her, shrouded in mist. Within that shroud she saw spectral figures, the stuff of nightmares, with misshapen bodies and eager, bloody mouths.

Iona ignored them and sailed into the cove. As she stepped upon the shore, a dragon appeared. Fire and smoke burst out, as it opened its massive jaws to roar.

With trembling legs, Iona approached the beast and sang in a voice that faltered at first, but then rang out, loud and pure:

Beast, stand down

Beast, do my bidding

Beast, reveal now

what is hidden

As she finished her song, the air shimmered. The dragon became a dog, red as flames. It licked her hand, and followed at her heels, as they walked to the cave—its opening now revealed.

They walked down steep stairs carved into stone, farther and farther under the earth. Iona carried an oak wand given to her by a Wise Woman. It glowed and lighted her way. She looked neither left nor right at the spirits around her, but traveled down, down, down. As she reached the bottom, she saw Dermid. He stood rooted, with no expression on his face.

She remembered the Wise Woman’s words, “Your courage and determination will get you to the Isle, but only true love and faith will save Dermid.”

She clasped her arms around his waist and held tightly as he turned into a huge snake, but she held on, and he turned into a lion, but still she held him, and finally he turned back into a man. Her man. With tears streamed from her eyes, she helped him journey up the stairs.

They climbed up and up for hours, it seemed, racing to get back to the surface before dawn. They reached the surface just before the sun, and as they climbed into Iona’s boat, they saw it rise pink and orange above the sea. The Isle disappeared.

Dermid said to her, “Thank you for saving me.”

Iona replied with a smile, “I thought our baby should have a father.” Then looked down, “and a dog.”

 

This is for Jane Dougherty’s microfiction challenge.  The prompt was the painting above.

I’ve stolen, quite shamelessly, from many myths and tales, and once again gone over the word count.

 

 

 

Voices and Memories

Monday Morning Musings

 

“I’ve never had a way with women, but the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could”

Dar Williams, “Iowa”

“We are not lost in the mortal city.”

–Dar Williams, “Mortal City”

“We both know what memories can bring

They bring diamonds and rust.”

–Joan Baez, “Diamonds and Rust”

“This shirt is just an old faded piece of cotton

Shining like the memories

Inside those silver buttons.”

–Mary Chapin Carpenter, “This Shirt”

 

I don’t go to concerts very often,

but this weekend, there were two.

strong women, with beautiful voices

their voices shined and stirred memories,

diamonds and rust.

 

My daughter and I went to see Dar Williams,

her husband drove us through the puddled night,

the city lights glowed through the mist,

reflected on the streets of the mortal city,

but we were not lost.

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And we ordered food and wine

sharing platters and talking

of friends, family

(her sister would have loved to have been with us)

of TV shows, of her house-to-be

a special momma-daughter night

 

 

I remember when I first heard Dar Williams,

I was driving home from teaching a night class,

listening to Philadelphia station, WXPN,

hearing “When I Was a Boy,”

and I thought,

Who is this woman?

I have to find this album

And I did

sharing with daughters

(young voices of strong girls)

who sang along, even not quite understanding the words

until they grew older,

And now here we are, one of them with me at a concert

in this mortal city

It is a wonderful concert

And she is generous to others

Sharing the time with local author, Liz Moore

Who reads from her latest novel, The Unseen World

And joins Dar on the chorus of “Iowa”

And for several hours we

forget about the candidate who never had a way with women

(Voices of women will be heard.)

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In between concerts

my husband and I get a visit from our daughters’ friend,

our older daughter’s friend since kindergarten,

younger daughter was the little sister she never had.

I watched them all grow up together.

(Diamond memories, comfortable like an old shirt)

 

She had messaged me,

she was coming home and had been dreaming of my cookies,

the cookies we call “Mommy Cookies” in my house,

she wondered if there might be some this weekend,

And I said I could make it happen.

How could I not?

So she stopped by and picked up the cookies,

enough for her boyfriend to try one.

She says she likes where they live,

a people’s republic in Maryland

the town will take in refugees

(voice of the people).

She’s a strong woman,

like my daughters

all working to make this world a better place.

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So then that night

(Sunday, if you’re keeping track)

my husband and I drive back into the mortal city

we see the rainbow flags and signs

of the Outfest celebration in the Gayborhood

(Voices of love, is love, is love, is love is love is love

is love is love)

And though the rain has finally stopped

it is cool and windy,

We eat at a bar–

my husband laughs when I say,

“It is a good night to eat in a dark bar.”

He picks a beer to drink

I order wine

We both have the Belgian frites

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And we sit and talk before walking to the Academy of Music

(I’ve never sung in such a beautiful hall before,” Mary Chapin Carpenter says.)

and it is beautiful

and she sings,

and her voice is beautiful and strong.

(I remember, diamond memories, of my daughters

singing along to “Passionate Kisses”)

She reveals a bit of hero worship for both Lucinda Williams

and Joan Baez

who then comes out on the stage,

elegant and strong at 75,

with that voice

that distinctive soprano vibrato

(Who doesn’t worship her?)

She begins with a folk song

“Pretty Peggy-O,”

alone on the stage

the way she probably sang at the start of her career,

and she sings her way through the years

(memories of diamonds and rust)

and she sings alone

and she sing with others

all strong, beautiful voices,

and despite claiming she is tired and her feet hurt,

she sings several encore songs

including “Imagine”

because we need this song,

and “The Boxer,”

another song of another mortal city

still timely,

as we hear what we want to hear

and disregard the rest.

She ends with “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”

wanting it to carry us all home,

she sings with a laugh and says “Good night.”

 

In the car

(traveling home from the mortal city)

I read the texts from my daughter

(a strong woman with the voice of an angel)

She has filled me in on the debate.

I turn on NPR,

I hear a strong woman

and I hear the other voice

that I hope will fade like rust

leaving only a slight orange stain

We know what memories can bring,

diamonds and rust.