Constellations

They call me the Woodwose.

But they know that I am the forest; I am the canopies and the wind and the soil underneath. I have been, ever since I inhabited its heart long ago, and settled in another still, in the heart of the Great Tree.

“I have come,” she says in a voice far too large for her frame, “to purge you, fiend!”

To that I sigh, and pay no thought to the years that the exhale holds. I have heard it a thousand times, from kings and knights and furious farmers alike. I have made their water and their wealth mine, and so have I their harvest and lands.

Their yield is poor this year. Not the fault of rainfall or the sun, but mine. I grow more able to bring suffering upon them, season by season.

Her father owns a nearby land, she says. Her anger is understandable, but she’s a fragile thing. A girl in her homespun skirts and flimsy limbs, with golden hair curiously chopped to her nape. Strange things they are, humans, that a fortnight of starvation could kill them, and yet they defy, and yet they dare.

She comes with a spade, and it becomes clear that no sorcery could flow from those fingertips. She fails on the first day, and she fails on the second. On the third, I ask why, thinking that it’s a redundant thing; because she’s a farmer’s daughter, and I make their crops suffer.

“To be granted knighthood.”

And my belief in the limits of foolishness disappears. It wasn’t a very strong belief to begin with, not with her futile efforts at my sides, digging at roots that recover in instants.

Being a farmer’s daughter isn’t completely irrelevant, I learn on the fourth day, because her mother died. They couldn’t provide what she’d needed; I’d taken their yield. On the fifth, she cries and I can’t distinguish tears from the sweat running down her cheeks, and it’s the bitter, furious kind because she’s miserable and a little broken. On the sixth day, she learns that I forgot the sight of the sky; and on the seventh, I learn that she can chart it.

Days pass, and she brings apples with her sometimes. When she allows herself to rest, she braids flowers into crowns. It grows, that hair, but so do my roots, back into the dirt where they belong. Soon I learn her name, and Constance watches as her efforts become vain.

She listens when I scoff and tell the tales of her predecessors. Sometimes she laughs too, at the knight who promised the heart of the tree but fled when it talked, and the old king who led his men to where the horses wouldn’t follow and tripped into the river while he hailed his call.

When I ask if she’s searching for my weakness in their stories, “Perhaps I am,” she cheekily says. But no, and although I am incapable of emotions beyond sins, no tenderness to be offered to humans, I can see it; that earnestness in eyes that should be set on horizons.

“Find my virtues,” I tell her after months she spends visiting, the secret of uprooting the heart of the woods. Seven, scattered across lands and seas far beyond her little village. It intrigues her, and she asks where, not how. And it is a little charming how willful the weaker beings can sometimes be. At least she, whose eyes bear something I can’t read, when she’s told in which scorching desert my Patience I’d left, and in the depth of which sea my Diligence dwells, and how high the mountain that holds my Humility is.

Then they call for her and she heeds. She leaves on a ship, and the wind brings back news of her when he can. She disembarks, and she finds her first companion, a small monkey, on a strange land I must have journeyed during my old life. It wasn’t so robust then.

She spends the year away, guided by voices and the stars. My virtues are gently awakened throughout, but I can’t possess them yet. She is captured and put to suffering for stealing my Chasity from a land that honored it far beyond its worth, then she escapes unaided. The wind tells me she finds another companion, a boy, and is taught the way of the sword. Beasts become less frightening, and her sobs more courageous and sparse.

Her laughter comes in abundance, and the freckles on the bridge of her nose more defined by the sun. She struggles still, against mountains of snow and ice and furious skies. But Constance grows and flourishes and takes the world by a storm.

I hear her curiosity finds ways to discover me, and seas away my secrets unravel in old myths and tales of havoc. She knows that I once had the freedom she seeks, and that I exploited it. I raged and plundered; I remorselessly sinned until that heart was spoiled beyond the capacity of a body to contain.

I begin losing myself, perhaps as she finds me elsewhere. I grow weaker in the entirety of my existence, their crops prosper and her father writes and sends birds with joy. It appears that it soon would be gone, my vision, but it doesn’t shake me, because the wind sometimes carries her voice, but never the sight of her.

She’s carrying trinkets in the palms of her hands when she returns. Seven of them; little, old things that gleam even in the dead of the night, even to eyes that could see nothing else. I’ve become too weak for the year she spent away to feel as insignificant as it should.

She cries again, and it’s a headache how much she does. “Why have you withered away,” she says, her voice barely wrapped around a sob. “We had an agreement, I was meant to purge you.”

I lie and tell her that it was because she found my virtues that I began dying, but she only weeps harder. “But I have many stories to tell,” she says, and a number of them are about me; small, lost pieces of a past. “You’re not meant to just die yet.”

But I am; because finding my virtues wouldn’t take me, but my own desire to leave would. To leave the tree that took me in when the rest of the world refused is how I am made to die.

She tells her tales as I disintegrate. The bark that kept me for centuries falls apart in the circle of her arms, and the roots that held me dissolved beneath her feet. “Stop crying, you fool,” I say, and it’s met by a mess of small laughs and sobs and persevering stories.

“You never told me your Kindness was swallowed by a Kraken. That took a whole crew of pirates to retrieve, and another band of outlaws, too. And a massive carnivorous flower was guarding your Temperance! I almost decided you could live without it at that sight.”

The Tree vanishes along with all the sorcery that rooted the forest. I feel it in me that it remains behind unchanged, and it could recover and grow without my notoriety keeping it in place. I have lived a burden, and remorse finds its way into me unprompted by the waiting virtues now scattered around her. Her stories are rushed and desperate, and so are her breaths. She breaks a little farther when my past as a human tumbles down her lips. She tells me that she knows and she says it again, that she knows and she knows, and she never says what it is. But it resonates in my body, every piece of the past she unraveled and willfully discovered, that left me with only envy and wrath. I feel it in the form that I undertook, and whether I am a beast or the human I’d once been I don’t know. But I am weaker than I’ve ever been, and even Pride can’t hold me upright against it. My head is cradled in her lap, on the harsh fabric of her breeches. And my eyes are gone, but she shifts me so they’re looking up. Constance pours Benevolence on them, and, “Open your eyes,” she says, “Look at the sky, Woodwose, isn’t it beautiful?”

My sky is green-eyed and freckled.

“That, she is,” I say, slipping away under her tears, “That she is.”


Notes

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Earth

 

Rightfully, I am She

In her everything

I am her rage

When she storms

But her calm

When she rains

When she trembles

I am her faults

And her lines

And her fault lines

I am lands that engulf

And that bloom

To give back

I am the brilliance in her skies

The colors and the black

Her yearning for the Sun

And the Moon’s for her

I was born

from one fistful

Of Earth

Reasons to Celebrate: Friends publishing!

Hello!

I’m going to cut straight to the chase: my very good friend Mirna has published a lovely collection of poems and stories titled Wisdoms of the East. It’s absolutely stunning, her writing is the kind that will take you far, far away (even when you’re literally sitting in the middle of the east itself)

Please support her here!

If you’ve done any self-publishing, please feel free to share your own work below, as long as it’s not NSFW or offensive to any religion or culture.

Have a great rest of the day!

Purpose

I spent the first 21 years and 9 months of my life trying to find my talent or a productive ability of some sorts. From graphic design to crafting, I found myself switching between smaller versions of activities my peers were exceptionally good at. But me? I’d never been the best at anything besides being a self-righteous little crap.

I remember the first piece of creative writing that I’d given to someone; I remember how easily the words tumbled down onto my keyboard and how much fun I had. It was a short piece, and a really bad one. It received a good reaction from the recipient, although I don’t think it was anything more than half-empty flattery.

For long after that, I didn’t write. It never particularly appealed to me, not when my friends were out there climbing up higher with their own work. What’s a bland hobby like writing compared to that? Anyone can string together a couple of words, right?

Writing is an art, and art is expression. That, friends, I was exceptionally bad at, always expressing too much or too little and overall just wrong. I think I still am a mess for no reason; no one’s ever forced me to grow so emotionally illiterate. I wouldn’t say I started to write to express things I otherwise couldn’t, but maybe it’s that creative energy that was building up and needed an outlet. I wanted something to be good at, something to work to improve; a fling to the future that I needed to compare my improvement to. I needed a craft, an art, as disrespectful as I’d been towards it. I pride myself in being a woman in STEM, and frankly, possibly because I am conceited and horrible, found other fields including the arts.. not as necessary.

But we crave it, don’t we? The luxury of art and beauty that comes after fulfilling all of your basic needs for survival. Maybe there is a truth that lies behind John Keating’s quote, “And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

(I’ve never seen that movie, just so you know. But I’ve grown to recognize the worth of the other half of the statement, although I’d only thoroughly believed in the first.)

I suppose my first naive conviction that my writing was good as soon as I started regularly practicing it was a blessing. But I don’t write for money, I don’t think I’ve even considered it until this very moment, and am not planning to. That’s not to undermine the efforts of people who do write for money, since my reason to write is a far more selfish thing. “Write for yourself,” some might say, but I’ve done enough for myself. There was a post on social media that said something along the lines of “when I’ve spent six hours baking a cake, I’d want people to eat it” to describe the creative process. I understand the importance of receiving an indication of people having spent time appreciating your work. I won’t write exclusively for myself, because I’ve done enough, watched shows and read books aimlessly, wallowed away in hobbies that produced nothing tangible (not directly, at least), or in ones whose products I was too embarrassed to share. It’s about time I put this out there for the world to see.

I write for attention. I write because I want people to read my work, to appreciate it; I write for feedback, to have people tell me that they relate, or that my writing’s put them on edge, or that it’s eased something in them, or dragged them through harder times. Maybe it’s a far-fetched hope of mine, but I really hope that one day, people will seek my writing to get their minds off of the harsher realities of their lives; maybe my writing is a little defiance, an insignificant effort to add a touch of beauty to this world.

100-word story: lo mein

“Grab some Chinese take-out on your way home, would you?”

“You should’ve taken this job if you wanted to eat out, love,” I tell her, and hear her softly laugh through the device in my ear – the voice I sleep and wake up to.

“In paper boxes, please!”

She’s in the same line of work, my partner-in-crime (or against it), and my endearingly insufferable wife.

My breathing is steady, and the din of the city quiets down. I tug between a heartbeat and the next, one silent bullet through the brains of some corrupt politician. A job done. Dinner time.

nonexistent reads

The preteen me, on average, probably finished more books a year than the adult me does. I suppose it is a similar issue some others face, growing up an avid reader then managing to grow out of it. Books by Jacqueline Wilson were my favorite, because there was something so real about them, and although they were meant for a younger audience, they never completely treated their readers like kids. My life as an Arab child was far different from all of the main characters’ of Wilson’s books, but they still were so human, and I remember feeling that she didn’t really shy away from exploring the complexity of emotions and presenting them to children.

I grew, and the number of books I read on a yearly basis took a nosedive (let’s keep comics out of this now, shall we?) I only remember really enjoying murder mysteries during my teenage years, and even those I read very, very few of.

I grew, and tried to get back into reading. My cousin, (shoutout: theyoungdeer) a very, very active reader, especially compared to yours truly, has been lending me all of her favorite picks, and I enjoyed a number of them. But I still haven’t found a book that I’d give 5/5, and I wonder if I ever will.

For the most part, I try to stay away from the angry, all-caps reviews on Goodreads beforehand because I’d rather develop my own opinion (which eventually becomes that angry, all-caps review). I’m thoroughly disappointed by too many new releases, and although I struggle with plots and don’t even consider myself a writer in the first place, I’ve been finding most of my reads mundane and butchered and unworthy of the praise that I find on the back of their covers. Call me a pretentious prick, I deserve it.

But the books I love are very particular, I want them to unravel, to build up and then ease down, to entangle every word put into them and grow complex, then wrap up and conclude like a gift; I like uncomfortably real characters and complicated plots and simple, beautiful writing that flows and takes the reader along. I miss having a book that I don’t want to put down.