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I saw two wrens up in the tree,
Outlined by morning’s golden air.
One waved a fat earthworm at me.
They seemed to be without a care.
Below, two young squirrels rolled and played,
Still plump from winter’s cache of nuts.
They leap and jump and trade insults,
Lash gray fluffed tails on wiggling butts.
A doe saunters past, uncaring of me.
Behind her danced a spotted fawn.
I’m pleased to be part of this company
On this day just after dawn.

Left or Right?

In today’s frame,
I am as fragile as a snowflake on Miami Beach.
I am as weak as the last sip of margarita after all the ice in the glass has melted.
I am as insubstantial as the steam rising from a take out coffee.
I am as insignificant as one single fly crawling up the window glass looking for a way out.

But consider,
The absolute magic of a flake falling on the beach.
The heady strength that caused the drinker to forget that last sip.
The addictive aroma that entices one to imbibe again and again.
The power held by the swarm, the pack, the mob all united together in a cause.

So as always in the best of times,
Look for the strength, the positive, the joy
To carry you through the trials of life.

Prose Poetry

Four haikus

The fine snowflakes
On the glass become wet drops.
The wiper flicks them away.

One red car alone
Sits peering over the drop,
Ponders jumping in.

Gray mist drains color
The void is wet, too cold for
Hateful, hardy geese.

Must be quiet here!
But the study area
Holds a ticking clock.

Observation

Monday mornings are library writing days. Today was dismal, dark. The finest snowflakes fall as I head out. On the glass, they become wet drops. The wiper flicks them away. I head into the study room. “You must be quiet here!” the door sign warns. But the library study room holds a ticking clock. It is a great, gold-faced grandfather perhaps a donation from a patron out of time.

I look out the window across the catch basin pond. The gray mist drains all color. It seems too dismal for the hardy, honking geese. They are absent. One red car sits, looking over the drop does it ponder jumping?

I Am

Lost in familiar places. Walking down halls that seem known but…
Something is wrong. The light is strange, tinting the paint an otherworldly hue.
There are no doors leading to rooms or escape. There is just the straight walk into darkness.

The walls disappear and I am out in a field in twilight dark, no orange rosy sunset here. No electric lights. I hear crickets chirp, an insistent hungry mosquito whine, and the overhead black flapping of a night feeder. There could be snakes lying in the thick tall grass.

Down a slope, the woods beckon, siren song leading me to bears! Robbers! Faeries dancing around a golden flame to cast a spell upon an interloper. The unknown whispered words of the wind in the pines, calling my name.

Lost, never to be awakened.

The Chapbook created for a poetry class

The Joy in Words
By
Karen Cox

Dedication: To the folks I write with who challenged this novelist to write poetry, to all of my students, and to Chuck, of course!

I. The Outdoors
Autumn Approaches 3
Summer Breeze 4
Suburban Day 5
Lakeside 6
Summer Morning Calling 7

II. Traveling the Road
No Tears 8
Leaving is Never Easy 9
Follow the Path 10
Turning a New Leaf 11
Highland Joy 12

III. A Look at the World
Complaint #1 13
Opposites 14
If 15
Reflecting 16
Bravery 17

IV. On Writing
The Bard’s Muse 18
Challenged to Tell a Story 19
How to Write 20
How to Write a Poem 21
The Archaeological Dig of Poetry 22

I. The Outdoors

Autumn Approaches

Orange and brown and gold and red,
Crisp and cold and sharp.
The stars shine bright in a clear night sky.
Painting the fall is Nature’s high art.
Squirrels quibble loud, tucking nuts away
Coats grown long, tails wrapped like scarves
The birds prepare, arranging flight plans
Wriggling snakes burrow, losing their tan.
Flowers fade gently, preparing for death.
The wind ruffles brown grasses that wave and sigh.
Trees lower their branches, lay down to rest.
The smell of frost hangs faint on the air.
A last walnut gathered into the nest.
One more tasty cricket before taking wing.
Slowly changing from heat to cool
As captive children head off to school.
To the circling Earth, this return is expected.
In all living beings, fall’s change is reflected.

Summer Breeze

The wind
Lifted the green leaves
Waving to their fellow plants.
It sent the maple branches
Dancing, twigs entwined.
It carried the scents
The perfumes of Nature
Warm, soft, sweet.
Black eyed Susans
Sway like a choir
In time to the wind’s song.
On the summer breeze.

Suburban Day

Roofers crawl atop
Peaks, hammering, mad woodpeckers shingle seeking.
The mail truck speeds by, cornering sharply, brakes squealing,
At each box, shoving letters inside, slamming metal doors, before roaring on.
Dogs bark incessantly
One yard over, behind rail fencing,
At the cat, sitting without care, on green grass,
He yawns bored and stalks away, driving the dogs into howling frenzy.
Mom pushes baby
In a stroller, getting in steps,
Talking, cellphone to ear, as they lap the block.
He solemnly watches the houses pass, dropping his bottle secretly, wicked chortle erupting.
Retiree, trimmer wielding,
Edges the verge neatly around concrete.
Wonders why he left his job for this pastoral.
He sighs, checks the mailbox, heads inside, beer and baseball lie ahead.

Lake Side

The water ripples,
undulating, driven
by the warm wind.
Waves bouncing against the bank to
be sent back again,
return voyage to the far side.
The blue reflects the sky.
White billow clouds, mirrored like
Water sheep grazing on the algae green.
And I, their shepherd,
lie on the shore,
tending my flock,
a wisp of timothy hay
between my teeth.

Summer Morning Calling A Sonnet for Tracy

The summer sun rises, calling to me.
I wait, looking east and ponder my way.
Tall hills, blue lakes, and sand beaches to see.
Lifting book and bag, Winds, guide where you may.

Dew drops shine like bright gems in the tall grass.
Sun beams turn the mist into golden dust.
Toward the tree line, I set out at last.
Far places hold secrets and magic, I trust!

Down well marked trail, then to the left or right?
Walk off the path, stride into the unknown
Or go straight on, into strengthening light?
So why should I set off, leaving my home?

I follow my muse wherever she leads,
Find stolen gold! Perform heroic deeds!

II. Traveling the Road

No Tears

Don’t cry for parting.
For, once joined,
Are we ever separated?
Instead
Raise up a cheer
For the adventures we shared
With strength facing dangers for reward.
Raise up a song
For the melody of our voices,
A lilting harmony of diverse feelings and thoughts.
Raise up a shout, loud and proud!
For ideas that were given form,
Accepted, agreed with or not.
Raise up a whisper
Of prayer to Whomever
Of thanks and honor and grace.
I will carry your words
In my heart forever.
So don’t cry for parting
This day.

Leaving is Never Easy

My back to all I hold dear,
Facing the onward road,
In coming, I saw the whole,
beloved vista before me,
But in parting,
Only the corner of one eye
Catches the familiar,
The tranquil,
The peace.

Vast unknown fills my vision.
Roads branch off
Through green fields
Leading to unfamiliar places
And strangers.
As thoughts of comfortable surroundings
And folk so familiar they could be me
Fill my mind.

My pace increases.
Down, down the hill.
Then across the water.
Up, climbing around curves
Where the future
Perhaps fraught with danger
Cannot be seen.

As daylight lengthens,
I arrive at home that is
But somehow isn’t.
And settled by my own hearth,
I raise my glass
To that place
To my friends–
Safe travels all!
Until we meet again.
When arriving is so joy-filled

Follow the Path

Trail, footpath, track, road
Leading off into the unknown
Distant lands.
Exciting,
Unique,
New,
Unknown.
Guided by instinct and
Footprints of those who went before.
Wind in the leaves calling,
Birdsong alluring,
A map to guide
Found under a flower
Drawn by a faery.
Stride
By water, uphill, along the ridge.
Down, down, down into the valley.
Ready for
Wherever it leads.

Turning a New Leaf

Does the old escape into
the new?
Jumps free of entanglements,
Runs screaming into the
Fresh air?
Sheds its colorless old fur
And sprouts bright plumage,
Pretending to be something
New
Exciting
Different.
Mostly, the old oozes into the
unaware new,
Tainting it with memories,
Muddying the clear thoughts,
Layering staleness over the freshness.
But, sometimes, just sometimes,
It shares experience,
Warning against pitfalls,
Supports and encourages
So a new adventure can begin.

Highland Joy

Come dance with me on the windblown grass,
And through the green labyrinth run free.
Spin under sun-washed leaves,
Hug the soft moss,
Woodland lichen caressing the trees.
Sit on the high meadow,
A true retreat.
Content, for as far as you can see.
An offering given,
As we head back home,
Pausing to touch the ancient thorn tree.

III. A Look at the World

Complaint #1

Why be so
Negative?
Sunshine bright behind the eyelids
To you is a portent of heatstroke.
Rainbow flowers nodding on the breeze
To you is a mess to be raked or sneezed.
Birds sing boldly while feeding their chicks
To you is a sidewalk splattered and slick.
Sun! Flowers! Birds!
You are alive! Thank the Powers!
Take a deep breath.
Become aware.
Count yourself fortunate.
Smile so your heart is warmed.
Dance to music only you can hear.
Sing aloud; spread joy!

So you will be remembered
Positively!

Opposites

Can be close or far apart.
Definite or vague.
Close-minded or open to all ideas.

It can be a state of mind
Instead of physical being.
Like young or old,
Mean or kind,
Bright or dull.
Your world is wide and round, not narrow as a street,
Holds room for
Both light and dark,
Hot and cold,
Cloudy and bright,
Day and night!
So be brave, not cowardly.
Free your imprisoned thoughts
And eschewing timidity,
Go boldly!
Released from all impediment.

If

If
We were simply kinder
To all
Those we like and
Those we don’t know,
It would be a better place.
If
We valued honesty
And open mindedness
Instead of deceit
And judgement,
It would be a better place.
If

Reflecting

A smiling face
Reflected on the wall.
You see your true self
Reflected in those eyes.
Fair or foul?
A whole picture.
Then tragically broken
Seven years of regret now.
Dropped carelessly or maybe thrown in rage
At glimpsing the truth.
Shards reflecting
Like drops of water
Seeing yourself in it
And maybe more.
Revealing what is truly there.
Is it bad luck
To be so fragmented?
Or was it worse luck
To be seen whole as you are?
Is it better to be ignorant or fully aware?
When reflecting, when glancing back
Is reviewing the past productive?
Broken bits scattered about
Revealing pieces of you,
Pieces of your soul.

Bravery

What defines bravery?
Sucking it up
Bracing yourself
Deep breath before the plunge
Say a chant or whisper a prayer?
What form does courage take?
A defender of the weak touches the stars
A minuteman farmer faces a British regular
A victim confronts her attacker in court
A little child opens his closet door.
Are there no options?
Standing to face the sharp-toothed monster
Facing the unknown, staring it down
Flashing lights warn so forewarned ever on guard
Taking a stiff drink of whisky as fortitude.
And the symbols we know?
A medal holds it spirit
A phoenix knows the flame but is willing to fly
A flag unfurled to a rousing cheer
A glass lifted in honor of those gone before.
The epitome of courage.

IV. On Writing

The Bard’s Muse

A mask
Disguised as a wall plaque
Studying those who walk by
Sifting out ideas to write
Phrases, metaphor, and rhyme.

The face behind the words
Downcast hooded eyes,
Hiding her soul,
Shading the questioning stare.
Lips pursed as if preventing a smile
Or a saucy retort
At the absurd.
The hint of a horn,
Portent of devils
Contained inside.

A feather pen, well-used
A nod to ancient bards
Who wrote in lyric lines.
Quill of gold, the color of sunlight
Or the coin all writers hope to make.

The thoughts!
The words
That flow down the shaft
And spill across the page!
All thanks to the Muse
Inhabiting that pen
Hanging on the wall,
Watching all go by.

Challenged to Tell a Story

Night! As if
awakened from a dream,
Perhaps heard a cry. I looked out
on the lawn. The moonlight shone.
Something sang out in that night.
None would suspect the purpose was protection.
Those voices, absolute and impressive,
First all, then many,
Then one and then another.
Singing to bring all
safely home. Guardians of
The magic of the night.
I waved a salute
to their invisible presence
And went back to sleep.

How To Write

Pressure is not always embraced,
But in writing, it is a catalyst.
Sometimes a guide is necessity.
A list to follow
For cajoling words to flow
From mind to page.
First, select a spot
Comfortable, but not too.
Temperate, quiet but not silent.
Somehow awareness of the living world helps.
Perhaps ’tis the idea of audience!
Tools? Tools! Ah, the workman’s blades!
Pen and paper, tablet, binder, book,
Keyboard, screen, and thoughts.
One must have those or all else
Is for naught!
And so to begin…
What conjures grace of words?
The soft blowing of the wind,
The glint of sunlight reflected,
A constructing bird
Laying foundation
For her summer home.
Like the writer
Laying foundation
For the work.

How To Write a Poem

To catch an idea,
You probably need
A butterfly net,
Sticky fly paper,
A baited mouse trap.
To collect words,
You contain them in
A suitcase stuffed,
A bucket slopping over,
A Webster’s crammed full.
To develop images,
You shut your eyes and visualize
A brush stroked painting,
A black and white Polaroid,
A child’s chalk stick figure.
To write lines,
You raise your pen
Scribble words,
Rhyme phrases,
Ignore complete sentences.
When it seems done,
You set aside the page,
Let it steep in darkness,
Ripen like a good cheese,
Age like fine wine.
Then you have a poem.

The Archaeological Dig of Poetry

Sifting down through the layers.
Words, just words, at first,
That fitted together become phrases
Welded in place like gold and
Lapis lazuli.
Forming lines that dance
And howl
Like Bastet caught in the rain.
Forming mind pictures
Hieroglyphs of metaphors
Forming rhymes
Chants that conjure the Old Gods.
Stanzas that must be unwrapped
That walk, arms outstretched
Into corners of memory.
Poems are tombs opened
To reveal their priceless secrets.
The shared treasure of language.

About the author
Karen has been writing since, as a three-year-old, she handed her grandmother a tablet page full of scribbles. When she asked what it was, Karen told her “I wrote a book.” Karen wrote stories through elementary school, in eighth grade her first novel, a fanfic about teenagers fighting in the Revolutionary War. She grew up in the coal fields and steel mills of eastern Ohio, out in the country where the night sky was filled with stars. Karen holds a B.S. and a M. Ed. in English Education from The Ohio State University. For thirty years, she was a National Board Certified English teacher, most of the time spent at Deer Park High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a graduate of Miami University’s Ohio Writing Project. She wrote with her students, and NANOWRIMO was her favorite season.
Karen retired and did consulting for four years. She joined Women Writing for (a) Change, a Cincinnati writing organization, and completed their feminist leadership academy, becoming a facilitator in their summer camps for teens. She lives at the Tabby Cat Reserve in West Chester, Ohio with Chuck and five feline muses.
Her works include a LOTRs fanfic novel called Paths of the King, Bite Me, a YA novel, and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, the future adventures of Col. Gryphon Bailey in a world that due to science is “kinda bitey.” She is currently playing with ideas about the younger son of an Irish laird who helps Brian Boru clear the Vikings from Ireland called The Minstrel’s Sword, and River Ghost sparked by a local news report of a car found in the Ohio River which may (or may not?) have remains in it. Oh, and poetry! Karen has discovered through the encouragement of her writing community that she likes the challenge of writing poetry.

River Ghost

The beginnings of a short story or maybe something more…

Chapter One
“Jack!” The whisper-shout came out of the hydrangea bush. “Jack!” The back door of the house opened and a shadow slid out, shutting the door and floating down the steps silently. It came straight to where Marty hunkered under the bush.
“Come on!” Jack said, skirting past the hiding Marty and walking swiftly down the gravel drive. The small river town was asleep except for the pair of teens who cut through yards, crossed the main street, and galloped down the slope to the Ohio River. It was dark on the bank.
With the river’s rippling current and the distance from the houses, the boys gave up their stealth mode and giggled with anticipation. They collapsed onto the grass, proud of their escape.
“Did you bring it?” Marty asked. Jack pulled the contraband from his jeans pocket and held it up in the faint moonlight. Marty gazed at the doobie in awe. Jack dug a lighter out of his pocket and lit the joint. He inhaled deeply and passed it to Marty. The tip glowed brightly and Marty felt the smoke swirl into his lungs and into his head.
A while later, the joint smoked to a nub, Jack stood up and walked to the river’s edge, Marty thought, to relieve himself. He stood there for a long time.
“Marty!” he yelled, waving back at his friend. “C’mere. I think there’s a car in there!” Marty lurched up and went to stand by Jack.
“Where?” he asked, but peering into the water, he needed no answer.. Down in the depths of the rippling current, he could see twin headlight beams glowing. “How the hell—”
“We need to get someone!” Jack turned and with Marty following, started for the road, but he stopped abruptly.
Directly in front of the boys stood a tall man, dressed in a dark shirt and pants. His clothes and hair were plastered to him. He was as wet as if he had just walked out of the river.
“Hey, mister. Is that your car?” The man silently turned and walked down the bank, seeming to disappear in the rising, pre-dawn mist.

Chapter Two
Cheryl Ann Ryder, FBI agent, drove south on U.S. 23. She was doing ten miles over the speed limit, but she knew none of the staties would stop her in the dark agency sedan with government plates. She was still angry at this deadend assignment and reliving the conversation with her boss.
The local yokels in Brown County had pulled a car from the river. Nothing unusual about that. But, the car may or may not have human remains in it. And it was old. At least fifteen years, they said.
“Jeff, they don’t even know if there are remains? Bones? Something?” Cheryl asked.
“Well, Farmer thought at first there was,” Jeff slid the file across his desk to her, “but he said later, back at the lab, they couldn’t find any.”
“They lost human remains?”
“They never were sure they were human,” Jeff said, “so go down there and take a look. Make a report.”
“Why me?”
“Because you’re from the area.” Cheryl snorted.
“Not really! Just because I lived near the river in northeastern Ohio when I was a kid does not make me an expert on the southern Ohio hillbilly wannabes.”
“Your prejudice is showing.”
“And do think the local cop is going to be happy to see a woman agent?”
“It’s the twenty-first century, Cheryl. I don’t think he’ll care.”
So that was how she got to be driving south into rural, rural southern Ohio to the river town of Braydon. Cheryl thought over the details of the case and glanced at the folder on the passenger seat. She liked to do things the old-fashioned way so had printed out the reposrts and pictures. A 2005 Caddy, bleached a nearly colorless gray by the water and what washed downstream from the mills and mines of her hometown.

Timeless Poetry

The archaeological dig of poetry
Sifting down through the layers,
Words, just words first
That fitted together become phrases
Welded in place like gold and
Lapis lazuli
Forming lines that dance
And howl
Like Bastet caught in the rain.
Forming mind pictures
Hieroglyphs of metaphors
Forming rhymes
Chants that conjure the Old Gods
Stanzas, arms outstretched,
That must be unwrapped
Walking into the corners of memory.

Poems are tombs opened
To reveal their priceless secrets,
The shared treasure of language.

Floating

I have friends who encourage me to float (you know, relaxation therapy) to achieve calmness. Yeah, I try, I really do. But my last float experience was productive: it produced a poem!!! Perhaps I should buy a book of six and get that novel done.

Float

Floating,
I try to concentrate
On nothing.

Calming,
Floating on a salt sea,
Warm in the dark,
Wrapped in the safe arms of Neptune’s nymphs.
I feel a hint of danger!
Eight arms maybe instead of two?

Wandering,
Floating in a salt sea,
Flavored with the blood of pirates,
Seasoned with rum and gunpowder.
Tears of mermaids,
Garlanded with kelp and shells,
Tinted blue by
The ink of squids.

Speculating,
Floating in a salt sea,
Blue lights dance behind my closed lids,
Their glow the last glimmer of Titanic
As she sinks, settling, her stern disappears.
Heroes were forged that day.

Floating,
I try to concentrate
On naught.
My thoughts go to nothing…
Then everything!
Maybe it’s the salt!

She was trapped in a dark, hot place, pressed tight by bindings circling her. And it stank! Her last clear memory was abruptly waking up as she was grabbed and thrust into this place. She wiggled, trying to find an opening in the darkness. Frustrated, she let out a piteous scream.
“Billy?” He looked up from his exam to find Ms. Beck standing next to him. “What do you have in your pocket?”
“Er—nothing?” The tenth grader lied badly.
“Well, Billy, the nothing seems to be wiggling and making noises.” The teacher led him out into the hallway where Mr. Morgan stood, arms crossed, waiting.
“Billy?” Mr. Morgan, ex-football coach and assistant principal, held out his hand. Billy shrugged, dug in his pocket, and deposited a squirming, mewling gray and white kitten. Mr. Morgan did not miss a beat. “Son, it’s exam week. You can’t bring cats to school. I’ll call your mom to come get it. Go take your exam.”
The kitten curled against the thumping heart of the big man as she was carried away. She thought about her last meal with Mommacat. It was so long ago and she was so very hungry. She suddenly, painfully missed Mommacat and her brothers and a sad meow erupted from her. “It’s O.K.,” the man rumbled. “We’ll get you home.”
“No, ma’am, you can’t bring the rest of them up here.” Mr. Morgan said indignantly. “We’re a school, not the Scratching Post.” He hung up and looked at the little kitten curled in a tight, fearful ball on his desk.
“What am I going to do with you now?” Suddenly, he got up and called to Eloise, the secretary, to find him a copy paper box.
Forty minutes left in the exam period. I checked the clock and surveyed the room. The students were writing. Action in the hallway caught my eye. Mike Morgan was standing outside my door, sort of bobbing and weaving. He definitely wanted to get my attention, but he was trying his damnedest not to disrupt my exam. I got up, one eye on the unaware students, and edged to the door.
“Do you need one of them, Mr. Morgan?”
“No, I wanted to ask you—they said you’d know—“ I was baffled by his hesitancy. Finally, he blurted out: “What do you feed a kitten?” It was the last thing I expected to come out of my assistant principal’s mouth.
“Kitten food.”
“Where can I get some close by?”
“Walgreen’s.”
“Thanks.” Without further explanation, he strode off down the hall, swinging a white bath towel.
The exam bell finally ended; it was my last one of the year. I stood in the hall, wishing my exiting students good luck on their next test. As the bell rang and the students sprinted to their next test room, my curiosity got the best of me. I pulled my classroom door shut and headed to the office.
Mike was coming in the auditorium side door as I turned the corner. The man carried three grocery bags near bursting with kitten food—cans, boxes, bags of treats!
“How many kittens are we feeding?” I fell in step beside him.
“One. Do you think I got enough?”
“For about six months!”
The kitten was hungry still, but she snuggled in the sweet smelling towels in her box. This was better, much better, than the pocket. But Mommacat still wasn’t here and she would feel so much better if she could get her ears licked. Suddenly, the towel she was curled under moved, and someone was looking at her. She stared back solemnly.
“She’s just a baby!” The person gently gathered her up. She froze, as Mommacat taught her. The person cuddled her and the little gray and white kitten smelled…other cats…boys, like her brothers, but different
“What are you going to do with her?”
“I guess I’ll give her back to Billy.” Both pictured what could happen to a kitten between school and home, even with the nicest of kids. The person began scratching the kitten’s chin, rubbing her chin, rubbing her ears. A rumble started deep in the tiny white chest, and the kitten snuggled against this person who was now her person.
“I’ll take her.”
I was in my classroom, packing up for the day. The kitten, grown bold was sneaking around my classroom, running back to her towel-lined den whenever she was frightened. She had mouthed some of the canned food, watered down into a gruel, and I made a mental note to stop by PetSmart and buy some powered Catmilk.
It hadn’t taken long for word to get out. Tracy and Julie, fellow teachers, sat watching the kitten’s antics.
“She’s awfully young,” Julie observed.
“What will the Tabby Brothers think?” asked Tracy. “Are you ready for another kitten? What will you name her?” At that moment, I knew the kitten’s name.
“Yes, we’re all ready for Hillary Kitten.”

In the Enemy’s Hall

The great fire pit threw lurching, shadowy figures on the stone walls of the hall, gape-mouth, gleeful imps intent on mayhem. Robert, bravest in battle, fought back a shiver as he glanced toward the head table where Kilgard and his lairds sat, laughing, drinking, happy with themselves at their latest murderous spree. Robert shifted his harp and tugged at his tunic as he approached the main table in the mead hall.
He stopped suddenly seeing her sitting at Kilgard’s table. Her blond hair was unbound, and long, it caught the firelight in golden wonder. It was held back by a circlet with a single lavender gem. Her riding tunic and boots were replaced by a gown of the finest material, but even dressed as an archer, he had thought her beautiful. Had they only met for the first time yesterday?
Standing in the woods outside the hill fort, she could have killed him, bow drawn, arrow nocked ready to pin him to the ground, and sword at her side to finish him. But she had stared down the shaft at him a moment, a moment where he felt like a buck about to become venison. Then she had smiled and he fell deeply, forever, in love.
“Be careful, jester.” One of the other minstrels hissed. “You’ll lose your eyes, staring so at Kilgard’s sister.”
Sister! Oh, he truly was damned!
Robert’s attention returned to the Viking. He shifted the harp again, his right hand itching to drag his hidden sword from the pack on his back and make an ending to this marauder who had set his next invasion on Robert’s lands and his people. If only the room knew who he really was, it would be his end. But such an end! For he would take the evil Kilgard and as many of his men as he could with him into the Netherworld.
Robert sprang into the circle formed by the tables in the mead hall. He twanged on his harp and danced a few steps, looking at the faces of Kilgard and his men, lit by the great fireplace. Lolly, the minstrel, as he was known here, strolled up to one of the Saxons and played the opening chords of a ballad. The drunken warrior paused a moment confused, then guffawed. Lolly picked up the man’s tankard and tipped it back, getting a roar of laughter from the hall. Lolly danced away. If only the Saxons knew who he really was: not a fool or bard, but an Irish laird who had come here to assess their number and perhaps, find a way to thwart their attack on his lands and people.
“You are brave, fool!” roared Kilgard.
“Aye, your grace. I be known as Lolly the Bold.”
“Come, fool. What are you here for?” Kilgard roared drunkenly.
Robert scraped his best bow. “I am here, m’lord, here to sing you an Irish ballad or three!” Kilgard spit dismissively into the rushes.
“Lays from that land of worthless shepherds and drunken lairds.” He laughed. “Lays of unending rain and sorrow?” Robert thought those words quite poetic for this barbarian. He set them to mind, a song needing written later.
“Songs of the hill folk, your grace, and the wee magical ones.” He bowed.
Kilgard waved an arm graciously. “Sit and partake of my bounty. I will summon you when we are ready for such winsome dirges.” Kilgard gestured to the far table.

From the Eye of Ra*

Dogs tremble and whine during storms.
Cats growl defiantly at the heavens,
Or sit contemplating, examining the lightning and rain out the window,
Or sleep, curled unconcerned.
Cats exist on a higher plain, unworried.
Unruffled by mortal concerns.
Cats spend time in deep contemplation, savoring smells, exploring the breeze.

Cats created Zen, mindfulness, and yoga.
Cats could levitate like a sideshow swami
If they chose.

They command deep relaxation
All muscles loose, laying on their back, forepaws crossed.
Eyes closed into the veriest slit.
Tails twitching slowly in time to an inner bell.

Cats are in the moment always.
Their mantra, a purring rumble, repeated:
Calm, calm, for I am
And always was
A god.

*Bastet: Egyptian Cat god. Sometimes known as the Eye of Ra,