Sunday, March 29, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 94 - Judgement and Acceptance

Today's found poem comes from my vampire WIP. You can read an excerpt HERE. I've used the villanelle form, but once again haven't tried to rhyme anything, as that would interfere with the found poem format.

Peredur is a Dark Age Welsh warrior who becomes a vampire. This poem is taken from two scenes where Peredur struggles with his new state of being. I've based Peredur on Scottish actor Gerard Butler.

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Judgement and Acceptance

The sun went down. Peredur opened eyes
Filled with dirt. Staggered to his feet - the grave
Is this what had become of him? Hunger

The blood lust took him hard. Had never known
What true need was, when he’d lived as a man
The sun went down. Peredur opened eyes

Smell of man came to him on a faint breeze
"Who’s there?" rang out before Peredur leaped
Is this what had become of him? Hunger

Yet how could he grieve when he could not cry?
Let loose an unnerving howl of anguish
The sun went down. Peredur opened eyes

Beat fists gainst ground. Saw two feet, hem of gown
Scrambled to knees, bent deeply, head to earth
Is this what had become of him? Hunger

A look held both judgement and acceptance
The sun went down. Peredur opened eyes
Is this what had become of him? Hunger

- Julia Smith, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 93 - Her Palm Stung But It Was Worth It

A very special hello today to Gautami Tripathy, who restarted the original Poetry Train when it got sidetracked. Many, many thanks! I hope you know how much that means to me.

Here is a found poem I crafted from a prose scene in one of my WIPs. Last week's poem introduced Scorpius from my dark fantasy story. Today's poem introduces Lady Elysande, whom Scorpius serves as Chamberlain of her keep. You can read an excerpt HERE.

Her Palm Stung But It Was Worth It

He just made it through the doorway
Into the Great Hall
A silver chalice sailed past his face
Bounced noisily onto the flagstones

Scorpius halted

The Master-at-Arms ducked
One arm shielding his face
Lady Elysande stood, knocking her chair over
“Rephrase that, Pahlmot.”

“I cannot recommend the Ball be held, my lady.”

Grabbing another goblet, she dashed
Its contents across the table
Into Pahlmot’s face. Scorpius caught the goblet
Square in the chest.

“The dragon sighting is confirmed. I saw it myself.”

“My guests have already set out.
They cannot backtrack now.”

Scorpius took a step forward. “My lady
The Master-at-Arms merely reports on developments.

As you requested.”

Pahlmot shot Scorpius a look of gratitude
Pulled himself up a little taller.
“I’ll continue to send patrols. Intercept
Guests we find and bring them to safety.”

Scorpius said.

Lady Elysande looked from one to the other
Her chest rose and fell rapidly
Pahlmot bowed stiffly. “If there is nothing further
My lady.”
She simply stared at the Master-at-Arms

Scorpius gave him the slightest of nods

Pahlmot backed away several paces
Turned to exit the hall
A slave picked up her chair
Lady Elysande sat as Scorpius began the

Long walk around the table to join her

Her chamberlain made his unhurried way towards her
For an employee in her household
He had an insufferable arrogance about him.
She wished very deeply he was one of her slaves

He and that stuffed-shirt Master-at-Arms

Their assumptions about what this
Dionysian Ball was really all about
The man had balls. Stepping in for
Pahlmot like that. Nearing her now

As though she wouldn't haul off and slap him

Across that perfect face of his. She waited
Till he sat in the chair beside her
The sound of it rang through the empty hall
Her palm stung, but it was worth it

For the hand print she’d left him

He took a moment to recover
Pulled his chair in
Looked her straight in the eye
His own danced with icy rebuke

His dark hair fell across his brow.
“Lady Elysande,” he said, his voice like silk
“You do have guests en route and
Alternate arrangements to make. I suggest

We address that.”

She reached for another goblet
Replacing the two she’d thrown
A slave filled it for her
And she sipped the dark wine

Entertainment. That’s what he thought of it

Goodness knows he must not suspect
What the nobles were truly up to
Why stage such an outrageous festival
If it wasn’t to distract everyone? Really –

Did handsome men have to be so thick?

“What is the point of throwing
Half of a Dionysian Ball?”
she asked
Petulantly, thinking to herself that
Half was better than none for their purposes

“You forget, my lady,” Scorpius said

“I promised you your debaucheries
Whether any guests showed up.”

A thrill erupted through her. Why would her
Chamberlain’s words give her

Such a reaction? “What did you

Mean by speaking for me
To the Master-at-Arms?”
she asked
Trying to get her mind off the image
Of Scorpius grabbing her for a forceful kiss

Where did that come from?

Scorpius took a breath before answering.
“Forgive me, my lady. I knew the
Urgency of his situation.”
“There is no excuse

For putting words in my mouth

Before another member of this household.”

She turned to look at him
Scorpius kept his head up but
Cast his gaze down. “My apologies.”

He swallowed and braced himself

Elysande’s heart beat painfully
She looked at her dark-haired, blue-eyed
Chamberlain. A delicious plan
Formed in her mind. A plan that

Surprised her by how quickly it excited

The deepest part of her.
“This keep is my home. I have no
Husband to help me run it. I have only
An endless betrothed. He’s been fighting in

Some battle or other far more than

He’s been inside these walls.”

She stared at Scorpius, willing him to
Meet her gaze. After a long moment
He looked up. She saw the dread

Lurking behind the bravado

“We will discuss the plans for the
Ball’s replacement now. But tonight
We will discuss how you will
Make it up to me - your insufferable behavior

Before the Master-at-Arms.”
Scorpius flushed

Though his face registered
Almost no change in expression.
She felt the thrill of recognition
At this discovery. Why had she not

Realized it before? He’d been here all along

Right under her nose.
“Yes, my lady,” he said, the sincere
Regret in his voice coursing through her
Like a drug. She had freed him from bondage

His gratitude made him ripe

For the kind of relationship
She liked best. A besotted chamberlain
Was precisely the ace she needed now
When dragons of all things threatened to

Pull apart a secret

Noble alliance built
Behind the scenes while
Fathers and husbands-to-be

Played at war

- Julia Smith, 2009

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 92 - He Followed His Master

So far, I've introduced four characters from two of my works in progress by creating found poetry from reworked prose scenes. Continuing with this format, here is the main character from a fantasy story I started last summer at my writers' retreat.

You can read a prose excerpt about Scorpius HERE.

He Followed His Master

Fostering relatives' children was common practice among the nobility
The nurses treated Scorpius as they did the others
Some had beautiful mothers scooping up their darlings
Sometimes handsome fathers took their children out for the day

No one ever came for Scorpius

He never asked where his parents might be, didn't want to
Hear the words spoken, words to confirm the gut-gnawing truth
He learned to be a little lord - until the other boys
Transfered to their own Houses. Formal schooling began

No one sent for Scorpius

At last, as babies arrived, a whole new crop of children to the nursery
Scorpius watched a stately man, a man with a scar across one temple
Approach the head nurse. Scorpius saw him glance over. The man with
The scar strode slowly across the courtyard, his movements

Like a great predatory beast

Finally. It was happening. Someone really had come for him
Crouching down so his face was level with Scorpius'
The man looked deeply into his face. Scorpius stayed silent
Returned the gaze without flinching. Hard, piercing glance

Raked across Scorpius' soul

Bowing as he'd been taught. Returned his gaze as was proper
Between family members of the noble classes. The man's expression
Changed, darkened with disapproval. Scorpius dropped his gaze
Fear prickled his back. "I'm the falconer," the man said

"I have need of a boy."

"He's a very helpful young man," the head nurse said, proudly
"Very respectful." Scorpius noticed she stressed the qualities
Of a good servant. His heart seemed to weigh a hundred pounds
"I'll take him off your hands, then." The man rose to his feet

Turned expectantly toward Scorpius

"Come along," the man said, striding off the way he'd come
Scorpius looked up at the head nurse in a panic
Was she releasing him to serve that scarred man? One look
In her eyes and he saw that she was

A sob lodged itself in his throat

He would not give her the satisfaction. All his
Dreams of meeting his parents one day shattered in a
Blinding instant. Forcing his feet to move, Scorpius refused to
Let the nursemaids see how their silence at his fate

Pierced him to the quick

He followed the man who was to be his master
With a swirling mix of emotions. For the first time
In his young life, he would belong to someone
A part of him rejoiced. The other part

Remembered the scar

- Julia Smith, 2009

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 91 - A Place to Start

This may be an entire year of found poetry for me - I'm having so much fun doing it. I've found quite a few poems in my prose fiction, and here is another one from my WIP about the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden, which took place in Scotland in April, 1746.

Last week I turned a scene from my story into a bit of an epic Naisaiku Challenge. This week I'm introducing Emma, the daughter of a clan chief who will cross paths with Jock, the narrator of last week's poem, a little later in my WIP. You can read some prose excerpts HERE.

A Place to Start

“Soldiers! Run! Go to the hills!”
Emma looked up from her stitching
Thomas ran toward the house from Nairn road
Mother quickly made the sign of the cross

Emma raced down the back stairs
“We must fly from here, now!”
“But the pies, Miss-”

A dozen of them moved into the trees

Then she heard it - a low rumble
A shout. Emma tried
But she glanced over her shoulder
Red-coated soldiers swarmed

Hens and pigs turned out
Horses tried to avoid the hands
Cattle dogs barked angrily
Washstand hurled from third-floor window

“Saints preserve us,” Enid said.
“Keep moving!” Thomas called.
Emma turned from the ruin of her home
The English had won the day

Her father, clan chief of MacBean
Did he lay broken on the field?
Her brothers...fiance...
Emma refused to hear the crackle of flames behind her

What of the oil portrait
Charred and blackened now?
Her brother Murray stared with eyes
Haunted by second guesses

“Come, Murray,” she coaxed.
She turned to look with him
Black smoke rose lazily from barn roof
Animals wandered past silver and crystal glinting in the grass

The rest lay twisted in death
“Murray MacBean,” she said. “You mustn’t
Stand here while your women are going alone
Into the hills.”

Murray looked at her, swallowing hard.
So dejected he’d been, left behind at fifteen.
Look after the manor house, while the other men
Fought for the Stuarts

“You may be the only MacBean left
To us. Be sure that your women and servants
Get safely away. Come, now.”
Began walking, slowly so he would follow

Murray turned wordlessly
Scanning the trees
He strode quickly up the low slope
Emma peered hard between trunks and branches

Searching the gloom for a flash of red
This forest, the scene of countless
Family outings filled with basket lunches and games
How sinister it now seemed

Enid’s pies. The English had devoured them by now.
It was cold out here without a shawl
Her slippered feet wet in the April afternoon
Was she walking toward safety here in the hills

Or merely putting off the inevitable?
Would tonight be the night she would
Dwell in the house of the Lord?
And was it wrong to wish with all of her heart

She might see her Douglas once more?
“Come, Emma!” Murray called.
She ran, trying not to think. More important things now.
Staying alive was a place to start.

- Julia Smith, 2009

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 90 - Take One More With Him

Welcome to the Poetry Train.

For today's Poetry Train, I'm continuing my found poetry series, and returning to the character I introduced last week. We find Jock MacKeigan fighting in the Battle of Culloden, near Inverness in Scotland, April, 1746:

Take One More With Him

The horse and rider
Bore down on Jock like phantoms
Bore down on Jock like phantoms
The horse and rider

Sword over head, swung
Down in a murderous arc
Down in a murderous arc
Sword over head, swung

His blade sliced the arm
The dragoon's arm so swiftly
The dragoon's arm so swiftly
His blade sliced the arm

Clutching the sabre
The arm fell on battlefield
The arm fell on battlefield
Clutching the sabre

Blinking back the sweat
How long, in the thick of it?
How long, in the thick of it?
Blinking back the sweat

He felt the killing
Frenzy begin to lift off
Frenzy begin to lift off
He felt the killing

Blocked out everything
All but weapons aimed at him
All but weapons aimed at him
Blocked out everything

He heard it now - groans
Shouts. Rasp of steel. Musket fire.
Shouts. Rasp of steel. Musket fire.
He heard it now - groans

Always - frenzy's lift
Meant the danger was past. But -
Meant the danger was past. But -
Always - frenzy's lift

Movement caught his eye
He turned. But it was too late.
He turned. But it was too late.
Movement caught his eye

Hit a clump of grass
And veered up into the air
And veered up into the air
Hit a clump of grass

He lay and writhed there
Screams all knotted up inside
Screams all knotted up inside
He lay and writhed there

The sky above him
Was hazy with cloud and smoke
Was hazy with cloud and smoke
The sky above him

Heard tramping of feet
Cries of men rose up in pitch
Cries of men rose up in pitch
Heard tramping of feet

Bayonets would take
What foot and horse left behind
What foot and horse left behind
Bayonets would take

It was clear to Jock
Before he took leave of life
Before he took leave of life
It was clear to Jock

His fingers wrapped round
Handle of the dirk. No fear.
Handle of the dirk. No fear.
His fingers wrapped round

Sat up. Grabbed handful
Scarlet coat. Held fast. Thrust hard.
Scarlet coat. Held fast. Thrust hard.
Sat up. Grabbed handful

Jock's head rocked forward
Hit from behind. Took more blows.
Hit from behind. Took more blows.
Jock's head rocked forward

This was it. Eyes shut
Prayed. Lord, I commend to you -
Prayed. Lord, I commend to you -
This was it. Eyes shut

- Julia Smith - 2009

I did The Naisaiku Challenge for this poem. Check it out!