Wednesday, September 30, 2020

#QueerBlogWed: Paula's Prompts

On May 13, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving ink, a red flower, and a middle-aged woman.

This poem was the result...

A middle-aged woman sees ink on her fingers
Petals fall from a red flower in front of her
How strange to get flowers
That someone would give her one
The ink was what mattered, not her
Why would anyone notice her?
Why would she want to be noticed?
It was her words that mattered
Not the woman who wrote them
The woman was the words
Why waste time wanting flowers?
Yet flowers appeared in her stories
Petals fell around creations of perfect beauty
Beauty was always important
She thought she herself had none
It was all in her words
Captured on ink, delivered in prose
Don’t look at the ink stains
Look at the words
All my beauty is in each sentence
Look for me there
Only someone insisted it was in her face
Someone insisted on giving her a flower
She didn’t know what to do with it
She’d given up on romance
It was all in the ink
Look at the ink
Wash away her regrets with ink
Her life was written in ink
There is nothing more
Why would someone see more?
A trace of beauty, a hidden kindness
She no longer believed in these things
What could she do with the flower?
Where could she possibly put it?
Among all her notebooks marked with ink
She made a place for that flower
Uncertain if she wanted it
Uncertain of the giver
Sometimes she watches its petals fall
Watching its beauty wilt and fade
Like time, like life
Like every precious moment she had left
Trickling through her fingers
Soon all the petals will drop
The flower will be gone
That doesn’t make it any less pretty
A bright burst of color amidst an army of notebooks

An offering of the earth amidst offerings of ink. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Paula's Prompts: Wednesday Words

On May 6, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving a late season snowstorm, an open can and either a cure or a curse. I've managed to work both of the last into the poem, which was my response to this...

Far too hot for a snowstorm
Yet the snow was settled there
Lying in patches on the ground
Hanging in icicles from the roof
It was far too hot for warm drinks
Too cold for fresh vegetables
Something was poured from an open can
Red, thick, exuding a sour smell
This was back when people were still being served
Cursing their bad luck for being caught in this crowd
Broiling in front of the open fire
How innocent we were
Sitting around at tables, packed together
Sweating in mutual discomfort
How innocent we were
I don’t miss the discomfort
Not the snow, not the concoction in the can
I miss the innocence
Is there a cure for our condition?
Should that innocence return?
The innocence of a crowd sitting at tables
Unaware of any danger other than discomfort
Maybe there was always danger
Lurking in wait in the crowds
Never defined or definite
We could touch the table others sat at
Not worrying about clung to our fingers
Only grime, dirt, and something smelly
Not a virus scattered by past fingers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

#QueerBlogWed: Byron's Song Part 3

On April 29, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at  a Wednesday Words prompt involving a water fountain, a celebration, and a mask.

This inspired a On the Other Side of the Mask freebie story so huge I broke it into segments. This is the third and final part...

Lord Ruthvyn made a curt nod to a young gentleman with strawberry-blonde curls standing nearby, dressed in a purple velvet, a porcelain tragedy mask with ribbons concealing his face. No, it wasn’t a gentleman, at least not a lord. It was only Nathaniel, grabbing his arm, pulling Byron to his feet like he had so many times. This time, he led his young charge away from his lord, the party, and the garden, guiding him in the direction of the manor.

Was Olympia somewhere in the party, wearing a comedy mask in contast with Nathaniel’s tragedy? Byron fought the urge to laugh.

“None of that!” Nathaniel hissed, pinching his arm not nearly as hard as he could have. “You’ve already been insolent to the point of madness, not that you haven’t tried anything particularly special.” He gave Byron a little shake. “Do you think you’re the first to try to win our lord over with carnal affections? Seducing him is deadly, you little fool.”

“Lord Ruthvyn wants me to seduce him.” Byron allowed his tongue to be bold and reckless. Why not? “He wants to be seduced with songs, to suck the warmth and life right out of me.”

“Try that again and he’ll do it with such speed you won’t have a chance to fight back. You’ll be left a bloodless corpse, an ice sculpture, or worse.” Nathaniel shook him again. “What will become of Shelley if you allow yourself to be consumed in such a fashion?”

Genuine concern flickered in Nathaniel’s words, accompanied by a familar warmth, a memory of aquamarine eyes filled with yearning set in a heart-shaped face, surrounded by strawberry blonde curls. Byron wasn’t sure if Nathaniel was sending him the images through his fingers or it was simply his own yearning for Shelley conjuring him up. Whichever it was, he grabbed his captor, forcing him to stop and face him. 

“You’ve seen him.” Byron looked into the slits of the servant’s mask, trying to read anything he could of his expression. “Why do you care what becomes of Shelley? Or me for that matter?”

“I shouldn’t care. It’s dangerous to care.” Nathaniel shook his head, the ribbons around his mask swaying. “Your emotions have a heat which draws everything on this estate close to you, in spite of the danger.”

“How is he?” Byron let the question escape him, filled with all the yearning he tried to conceal, but how could he? The other half of his soul had been taken from him. 

“Yearning for you as much as you yearn for him. Seeking the humanity in myself, Olympia, and our lord, no matter how foolish it might be.” Nathaniel turned towards the estate, the upper levels. Was he looking at a particular light in a window. “He has a kind heart, your Shelley. Kindness is…unusual.”

“It doesn’t have to be.” Dared he to hope that it might be Shelley’s window? “We are as kind as we choose to be.”

“Now you sound like him.” Nathaniel claimed his arm and began leading Byron back to the estate. “Don’t let yourselves become too alike just because you miss each other. Our lord might decide he no longer wants both of you.” Nathaniel drew a long, shuddering breath. “One of you will disappear if he does.”

Byron resisted the urge to swallow, to shudder at these words. He wouldn’t show fear. He wouldn’t show weakness. Not in front of Lord Ruthvyn or his servants. No matter how frightened he truly was. 

It was only a matter of time before both Shelley and himself disappeared. He sensed this as keenly as he sensed the concern flickering in Nathaniel, a concern he wasn’t sure if Olympia possessed. 

Don’t be too alike. Perhaps Nathaniel had learned this the hard way. 

Byron felt the chill left behind in his mouth by Lord Ruthvyn’s cold kiss. He wondered if it would ever leave him. If his mouth and throat would ever be warm again. 

Perhaps not.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

#QueerBlogWed: Byron's Song Part 2

On April 29, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving a water fountain, a celebration, and a mask.

This swelled into a On the Other Side of the Mask freebie story so large I broke it into segments. This is the second part...

The trick was to fall, sway, and move with the riddle. To become part of it. To use Lord Ruthvyn’s madness against him. To seduce the madness, thus seducing the master.

Byron smiled with pure sweetness and made a little bow, wondering if he startled his lord’s guests, hoping that he did. A murmur came from the crowd, but it was more admiration than fear. 

Let them admire him if they dared. Once Byron had everyone’s attention, he began to sing. A low, rippling note, growing higher and higher.

More than a few guests clapped their hands over their ears. Not Lord Ruthvyn. Byron could pick his slender figure, clad in a tuxedo out from the crowd, the curve of his red lips below a devil’s mask, painted wood, carved horns, bulges in all the wrong place drawing attention to the contours of its face, and slits where dark eyes filled with melancholy mockery back at the world. Not a clue as what he was thinking was shown in his mouth or his mask.

This maddened Byron. He held onto the high note for a painfully long moment before descending, making each sound more earthy, more seductive. Time for the song itself. 

“Chasing shadows
Wisps of warmth
What do you dream?”

He searched for Shelley while singing, searched for that sensitivity which made the air tremble before the other boy appeared, the special warmth he gave everything around him before you saw his slight form, the sweet, heart-shaped face surrounded by strawberry-blonde curls, the cupid’s bow of a mouth which invited kisses. No sign of him of watching or waiting. His warmth was gone if it had ever been here.

He felt the anger rising, heating him. Shelley’s warmth was for Byron alone. It had infuriated him back at the Cathedral when Mae or Claire reached for it, greedy flowers craving the other boy’s light. Now that light had been taken by a pale lord and locked away. Unbearable insult even if it was right, proper, and even merciful on the outskirts of Paradise. 

Byron allowed that anger to creep into his smile, his song, all the anger he’d ever felt towards the man who’d snatched two songbirds away from the Goddess’s Cathedral, to separate and trap them in his personal cages. 

“High above the sorrows
Untouched by harm
When will you scream?”

Not perfect, nothing like the original poet whose name he’d taken, the Byron from outside Paradise, but the challenge was in the lyrics. Pale lords didn’t scream. They couldn’t. They’d lost the fear, the passion which allowed such a sound to swell within a breast, to escape from a throat. 

There was an uneasy stir in the crowd while many a masked figure grew still, far stiller than usual. He’d struck at where once there’d been a heart with his song. 

Time for the final blow. 

Byron stepped down from the figures in the fountain, passing through the spray of water, feeling it soak into his hair and clothes. This hadn’t been choreographed. He was supposed to stay away from arcing path of the spray’s dance, out of reach of the guests.

Too bad. 

He stepped out of the fountain, soggy and wet. He touched the sleeve of a guest’s coat with damp fingers. Another he winked at. 

The pale lords shrank back from him, yet gazed at him through the slits of their masks in fascination. Byron wouldn’t allow his attention to settle on anyone other than the distant devil. 

His lord moved away from the crowd, directly in his path. Byron weaved his way through the guests, approaching his master. All the while he sang.

“A mask conceals furrows
Disdaining all charms
Are you what you seem?”

He stopped right in front of Lord Ruthvyn, ready for the final scandal. He reached up to seize his master’s face, pulling it towards his own. Those red lips beneath the mask were near enough to taste and he would taste them. 
Byron fastened his mouth upon his lord’s, claiming it in a kiss. 

He expected to be shoved away or to receive the back of his master’s hand. Instead Lord Ruthvyn enfolded his songbird in his arms, accepting the kiss. 

Cold spread through Byron’s mouth, reaching down his throat. Ice invaded his chest, chilling his nostrils, his temples. The chill sought every crevice within him, squeezing his heart. 

At the same time, Byron felt a stirring between his master’s legs even as he froze. 

“It’s not wise to stir my passions too swiftly, little songbird.” Lord Ruthvyn withdrew from Byron, still holding the boy loosely in his arms. “Or do you think you possess enough heat to satisfy me?”

Byron couldn’t speak, couldn’t get his frozen tongue to move. His teeth chattered. 

“What’s wrong, Byron?” His master gave him a little shake. “Where’s your rebel courage, your proud resolve? Surely one kiss didn’t make you forget what truly matters to you.” 

Lord Ruthvyn let him go. Never had he seemed taller, or to cast such a long shadow, looking down at the boy with his lower lip curled in amused contempt. 

“Where is Shelley? Or did you forget to look for him?” The pale lord cocked his head to the side, studying his shivering songbird. “Have you spotted him yet?”

“He’s not here.” Byron forced the words through his trembling lips. “You promised he’d be here. You promised I’d see him.”

“And you promised to sing for me. Not to disturb my celebration with your crude attempts to seduce me.” Lord Ruthvyn gave his songbird a shove before stepping away. 

Byron stumbled, falling to his knees. Tears threatened to well up in his eyes, but no. He wouldn’t cry. Not in front of the pale lords. Especially not in front of Lord Ruthvyn. 

“This is what happens to those who lie, those who disobey and disturb the happiness of others.” His master crossed his arms, glancing from Byron to everyone in the gathering. “Remember this.”

“What do you know of happiness?” Byron looked up behind a dark curl which fell forward over his eye, to glare at the shadow waiting to consume him as always. “You’ll never be happy, no matter how much you drain from me or anyone else.”

“Pray you’re wrong about that. For Shelley’s sake. For your own.” Dark eyes gleaming through the slits in a devil’s mask fixed themselves upon his. “From now on, my happiness is yours. My unhappiness as well. You’re mine, Byron. You exist to serve me.” The words trembled in the air, vibrating as they made their way into Byron’s ears, the recesses of his brain. “If I suffer, so shall you.”

To be continued on Wednesday; September 16, 2020...

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

#QueerBlogWed: Byron's Song Part 1

On April 29, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving a water fountain, a celebration, and a mask.

The results swelled into a On the Other Side of the Mask freebie story so large I had to break it down into segments. Here is the first part...

Night had never been a time of celebration. Not in the Cathedral of the Goddess at the heart of Paradise. It was a time of silence, where shivering children huddled in their thin blankets on their narrow beds, eyes shut tight, trying to lay as still as possible in the darkness, praying that darkness wouldn’t notice. 

In the meantime, the pale lords of darkness would celebrate within their moonlit grounds. Drinking from bubbling glasses, filled with red liquid that let out a faint scream or sigh when it touched a lord or lady’s crimson lips. Those mouths were all Byron could see of their white faces, hidden beneath many a mask. A crowd had gathered around the fountain in Lord Ruthvyn’s garden. Many of his guests wore tuxedos, top hats, or silken evening gowns, but everyone wore a mask. Various animals snarled and grinned at each other, abstract concept were warped into porcelain or wood, concealing the face of the wearer. It was all part of the fun, the game. Just who was hiding behind the mask? No one knew, but you could guess. Everyone adopted a playful, mocking fashion as they teased and flirted with each other, passing by a ghoul, a satyr, or a mad collection of stars and flowers. Just what did your mask have to say? What might you reveal while hiding yourself?

“Your mask is a part of you as much as your true face.” Lord Ruthvyn’s words caressed Byron’s inner ear, even though he was nowhere near his songbird. Was it part of his power or were Byron’s thoughts speaking to him? On this estate, it could be hard to tell which. Lips touched Byron’s cheek, cool as an ice cube sliding down his skin. “It’s up to you how much of yourself you decide to express or reveal.”

Byron gazed from the spray of water leaping, dancing, forming arcs within the fountain. He stood posed amidst the other cupids, untouched by the water, invisible. Everyone would think the songbird was simply one more statue until he moved. Until he began to sing. Ominous, how easy it was becoming to stand still, without drawing a single breath. He just had to calm his heart and mind, forget what agitated him, or least distance himself from his agitation, from his eternal question. 

Where was Shelley? Was he here in the crowd? The other songbird was smaller than anyone else here. Byron looked at the gathering of lords and ladies, headresses decked with feathers, silk gowns, diamond-covered throats, smirks often revealing themselves beneath the masks. 
“You promised Shelley would be here.” Byron remained still but his anger pulsed through the fountain, spreading out through the ground. It made many a pale lord pause, fixated on the warm energy in the air. Some stuck their tongues out to taste it. “You promised.”

“What’s wrong? Can’t you see him, sense him?” Something cold prickled his neck, like fingers touching him. It was the same sensation Byron got at night at the Cathedral, lying in bed, a sensation that a hungry ghost was present, ready to suck the life out of the sleeping songbirds who breathed too loudly. He’d been right. 

“This is your challenge, my Byron. Sing for me in front of my guests and Shelley shall appear.” Always the master spoke in riddles, wrapping himself in madness and mystery, keeping his confused minions off-balance. “Sing for me and I shall grant your wish.”

(To be continued on Wednesday; September 9, 2020)