The Dark Days

by Lyle Dagnen
The light fades away, the darkness grows The leaves are dying, the days are cooling 'Tis the harvest, the ground gives us love, The roots, the herbs that heal are waiting.
The fire burns all the day and into the night My master teaches me the way of the wise, To know them by heart so that I get the right, Is what I should know, is what is expected of me.
The Romans called it eighth, they tired to defeat, They called us wild as do the English lords. They sent the Scots to tame us, under their feet. Keeping the old ways is the way that we live.
On cold harvest night in the month called eighth, A gathering in the fields, we light the fires We move and sway to gods of old and ancient faith, The wisdom of the old ones is honored here.
Speaking the old words, remembering the cross roads, Marked by a circle, so that we may safely pass, We light the fires, we say the words, we burn the loads, We are the wild ones, we cannot be tamed.
On the month called eighth, the old voices call To the wise ones who know the way The memory of the healing, the way of fall, In hearts the fires burn, on the air is the way of old.

My Angel, My Penny

by Marcus Prudhon

I awake each day anew...realizing you are gone
No more kisses, no hugs to help me carry on.
Once there was love, both frightening yet sure
A love most of us want, sometimes forever long for.
I carry on with loving your memory, I carry it quite proud
Your voice your laugh, your face, and not like a shroud.
I don't bear your memory like a cross for all to see.
I bear you in my heart...the only place you need be.
I live on each day, fully, trying not to regret
That's what you wanted...and yet I don't forget
Your body, your tongue, your love, your taste
You are sweet memory, a treasure I won't erase.
I honor you by loving, laughing and living this life true
Not hiding, nor failing to love and remember you.
I love you still, my dearest, and when I think of then.
I pray there will come a day when we will touch again.

The Monster and His Keeper, part 19-end

by Lyle Dagnen

click here to see what you missed in parts 1-6
here for parts 7-12
and here for parts 13-18

Part 19
After the Bath, by Edgar Degas

She sat still, but when she looked up he had his arms propped on the top of the screen looking down at her.  “If you can finish your bath, I will bathe as well. That way we will both smell fresh.” He came round the screen holding a drying sheet for her to wrap herself in.  “Come, wife” he ordered. “I will see you without clothes. You need not fear me, for I find you pleasing to the eye.”  He surprised her by quickly wrapping her from head to foot in the sheet then lifting her in his arms to carry her to sit in his lap by the fire, allowing her to dry and warm.  He wrapped his arms around her holding her close.  As the water was soaked into the sheet he ran his hands over her body.  He stood up placing her in the chair  “If you'll help me, I'll bathe now.”

She understood about assisting in a bath.  More than once, she had been sent to help a guest prepare for the courtesy of a bath.  She wrapped her sheet and tucked it so that it would not fall off.  Then she assisted her husband, helping remove his boots and clothes.  As she folded the items he wore, she enjoyed the fragrance that his clothes held in them.  When she turned round her eyes were presented with a beautiful sight.  His backside was glorious, muscles  rippling.  When he stepped to the tub, she followed to help him adjust his seat in the tub.  He propped his stiff leg on the edge of the tub and eased his beautiful body into the water.

“Do you like what you see, wife?”  His voice reminded her that she was experiencing many firsts in her life.  Her first time to be first in the water, the first time she viewed a man with no clothes on, the first time a man had ever seen her with no clothes on.  For the first time since this had all begun, she thought that she might be glad that she had not ended up at Canterbury.

“I like very much what I see,”  her voice was trying to leave her.

“Come, wash my back and my hair for me.”  Washing his back was an experience, his skin was like silk and the muscles were hard.  His curly hair straightened with the weight of the water, but began to spring back as the water drained.  His hair was soft, she surprised herself because she had thought it would be hard like his muscles.  He asked her to wash the lower part of his leg and foot that stuck out of the tub.  His leg had a horrible scar at his knee, but the rest of his leg, she thought, was beautiful like the rest of him.  She realized his whole body was covered with a silky layer of dark blonde hair.

Part 20 (rated PG-13)

When she looked up from her duties he was watching her every move.

“You please me, wife, very much.”  He took the cleaning cloth and the soap from her to finish his bath.  “My drying sheet is there, hold it for me.”

He stood allowing the water to drain from him.  He was curious to see what she would do, if she would close her eyes, if she would turn her head, if she was curious and would she look at him.  He hoped that she would look at him.  She looked, actually she stared.  She had a look of shock on her face.  “Don't worry, wife.”  He stepped into the drying sheet, enjoying her arms wrapping round him. “You'll find I fit quite nicely once we take care of a few things first.”

She had not said a thing to him since he walked into their room.  “Don't tell me a chatterbox like you has no questions.”  He used the sheet to dry his hair, he shook the curls back into his long hair.  “Sit here and I'll comb your hair for you.” He wrapped his sheet round his waist leaving his chest for her to look at, actually close enough to touch. Her fingers seemed to be drawn to touch him, lightly as if she thought she might injure him.

“Can you tell me what you are going to do to me?”  She found that being so close to him made it hard for her to breathe.

Part 21

“Old stores call it the claiming,” he began, “when the husband takes his wife's virginity.  You spoke of the parties you had witnessed.  Be grateful that we don't have to put up with that.”  She nodded her agreement.  “I'm sorry to tell you that you will be hurt, but only the first time. After I bed you for the first time you will be sore.  That cannot be helped, but all of that will pass.  I promise you this, I'll be as gentle as I can be but there is only so much that I can do.  After these first times you should come to enjoy it when I join with you.  I want you in my bed, not down the hall or upstairs somewhere.  I won't be treated as some kind of unwelcome lout barely tolerated in my wife's bed.  That would break everything you promised in your vows.  There is pleasure to be had in what we do to one another, this is also the way to making babies.”  She turned to face him. “This is probably a blasphemy that will get me damned to hell, but it is not a sin for us to find pleasure in each other.”

“Do we put on clothes to do this?” her sheet was slipping low, he could see the tops of her breasts.

“No, Kat.  I sleep naked and you will too.” Her eyes grew large. “Don't worry, you'll grow to like it.”  He leaned to kiss her, touching his tongue to her lips for the first time. Her surprised reaction caused her to open her mouth and his tongue darted inside.  He hoped she would not bite him.  The intimacy of that kiss caused her to melt against him.  He stood, hauling her up and into his arms.  She had been clinging to her sheet but his kisses made her need to put her arms around him more tightly. “Feel how that kiss makes your body tingle way down inside you?”  She nodded.  “That's your body preparing itself for me.  That's your desire for me to make love to you.”  He took her sheet and draped it on the screen, placing his there with it. “Come to bed with me wife.”  His voice was deep, his hands felt so good holding her bare bottom as he walked her to the bed.

“I'm not sleepy” she whispered to him.

“We're not going to sleep.”

Part 22 - Rated mature, 18+ adults

He was walking her backwards to his large bed, kissing her and, oh what he did with his hands.  One hand was used to keep her pinned to him as he moved her, the other was used to caress her breasts, to rub her bottom and push her hips against him.  She had thought he was very large, but she could feel him grow against her stomach and he was very hard when he grew.  He had promised her he would fit nicely, but she wasn't so sure.

“Are you sure?” she asked, looking down at him

“I'm sure.  Now, crawl up in the bed, get in the middle.” He had to sit and lift himself so that he could accommodate his leg. He spent the first several minutes moving her hands from trying to hide and adjusting her legs.  He'd never really thought of this before, but women really had to expose themselves to their husbands.  He was trying his damnedest to be gentle, but he wondered how many times men just rutted on their wives like some kind of animal.  He reached down to touch her.

She drew in a deep breath — partly passion and partly shock at the intimacy of what he had just done.

“Kat, you are wet.  That means your body is as ready as it can be to accept me the first time.”  He returned his fingers touching her. Feeling her move toward him, he slipped a finger inside her, moving it in and out allowing her to become accustomed to the motions he would use.  When he felt her muscles begin to contract he eased in a second finger, to stretch her as much as he could.  He left his thumb on that place that he had discovered that ladies really liked to have touched.  His little, inexperienced wife, came apart in his arms with her first climax.  He smiled.  While she was still pulsing, he eased his fingers out and moved to her opening,  He could still feel the pulses when he touched her with his manhood.  Drenched in the fluid from her body and his, he pushed and she grew still.

“Oh, Drew.”  Her eyes seemed to lose their focus.  He pushed again, she moaned and she pushed back.  Her  barrier stopped him.

“This can't be slow.”  He held her hand, their fingers twining together.  “Know that you are pleasing to me, wife.”  And he pushed breaking the barrier.

She grew still, then she pushed against his chest.  It hurt, he knew it had hurt, the thin barrier had torn, he could feel the blood draining from her opening.  Her eyes had closed.  He gave her some time.

Her eyes opened and the hate and anger he thought might be there was not there.

Part 23

“Do I still please you?” she asked.

“Yes, you do.”  He smiled, kissing her and pushing into her.  She did what her body seemed to be telling her to do.  She watched Drew, she could feel that tingle deep inside her.  She knew that meant that she was going to have one of those mind numbing things she had before.  She tried to tell him, but her mouth did not want to cooperate and form words.  She found that his body was acting the same way and that both of them experienced one of those things at the same time.  Only Drew filled her with something warm, and wet.  She wondered if that was what the Bible called his seed.  Whatever it was, they were both out of breath and their hearts were beating like something wild.

“You're right,” was the first thing she said to him, as he pulled them to their side, still connected.

“What am I right about?”  He was pushing her hair back out of her face.

“You do fit me very nicely.”  She wanted to touch him, but he explained that she needed to wait several minutes, that everything was extremely sensitive.

“Look.”  He caressed one of her nipples and that's all it took for her to understand what he was talking about.  He reached for the cover so that the drying sweat on their bodies would not cool them too fast.

“How many times can we do this?” she asked.

“As often as you want, after you recover from this first time.” He was getting ready to carry her to the tub to clean her body.

“What if I told you that I want to do it again before the soreness sets in.”

He looked at her face.

She was all smiles. “Please.”

He thought to himself what a waste it would have been to send this woman to a monastery.  She might kill him with her demands, but what a sweet death.  She actually talked him into two more times.  The water they used to clean themselves was quite cool, but delicious.  He hung the draw sheet to dry so it could be folded and stored in case there were ever a question as to her virginity.  He found that she enjoyed cleaning him as much as he enjoyed cleaning her.

She helped him dress, he helped her select one of her very plain dresses.  Ester came in and braided her hair like a crown on top, letting the rest fall down her back.  They snacked on fruit and cheese because they had missed the evening meal.  They had plenty to talk about, they were coming to know one another.  He made sure to hide his smile when he watched her settle into a seated position very carefully.  She did surprise him, she only waited a day before she was demanding that he make love to her again.

Part 24

It was on a cold day two months later that they went riding.  She preferred to ride tucked in front of him.  On days like today, they shared warmth wrapped in his cape.  He rode out to the top of the hill so that they could look back at the castle.  Sitting quietly, wrapped in one another's arms he said, “Kat, I love you so, you are my heart”  That was the first time he said it.  He made sure to tell her several times a day every day after that.

She took his right hand — the one that made him a hero — to her and placed it over her  abdomen.  “I love you, Drew.  We've made a baby.”  He threw back his head and laughed for the sheer pleasure of it.  Then he turned back to caress and cherish her, kissing her deeply just the way she liked to be kissed.

There were always to be the rumors that a monster lived in the castle.  The scars on his face and the leg that never really regained its flexibility disturbed people who had some kind of stilted ideas about beauty.  They only saw his scarred face, never the heart of the man who had risked death to save his king.  He preferred it that way.  He did not have to entertain shallow people who might misunderstand his outspoken, chatty wife who collected swear words and would occasionally let one soar to the heavens.  For instance, when he dared to insist she ride side-saddle rather than nestled in front of him on his huge battle beast of a horse, she let one fly, in front of the master of horse, no less.  Or, when their oldest child decided to see if he could walk around the keep walls on the outside barrier — it was believed that everyone in the bailey heard that one.  She used two when the king asked Drew, personally, to be his advisor in a battle he wanted to launch against Spain.

He did advise the king, but he did it from their castle, while the king fought in the mud and rain in Spain.  While the king was at war, they conceived a set of twin girls who thought their father was the most wonderful man and each wanted to be smart like her mother.

Today in the chapel attached to the dark, forbidding castle that was filled with love, passion, laughter, and joy for so many decades, are the tombs of Robert William Andrew Stafford, Earl of North Cumberland and his Lady wife Cecilia Katherine Marie.  The tombs stand side by side.  He insisted that his death statue show his scarred face and his damaged hand.  Kat was always at his side, his confidant, his partner, and his lover in life.  She is beside him in death.  She was a force to be reckoned with; he loved her more than his own life.  To say that he died of a broken heart was the truth.  Kat died beside him in her sleep.

The last thing she had said to him was, “Drew, I love you more than anything on this earth.  Thank you for loving me.”  He had kissed her and held her in his arms.  The next morning she was dead.  Drew died a month later in his sleep.  They lie, side by side, the monster and his keeper.  To their six children the only legend their parents left was one of love and devotion.


The Goodbye

by Susan Brooks Fleming and Marcus Joe Prudhon is the other author

Little cubes of ice....hard, cold, unrelenting, the rain fell like little cubes of ice coating every thing it touched with thickened unfrozen water. The ground was soft, it had to be soft, it had to be churned up to make the place where he had been placed; the cold would make it hard again. Numbed fingers poked into the ground prompted by the insane notion that somehow she could reach the box where they had placed him before they put him in the ground. Funny how tears are still hot, even in the cold. The cemetery was deserted now, had been for hours, and this little place on the hill was hard to see from the road. At last there was privacy for her to say goodbye and be left alone by the well-meaning people who said that it would get better. Stretching out, she lay on the ground beside his place, finally falling asleep with the cold...having no intention of ever waking again. 

The warmth of the room and the pristine cleanness of the room provided her eyes with the information that she was in a hospital. Sluggishly, her mind wondered which part of the hospital housed her. She could move her arms and legs so they had not tied her in the bed. The window showed no evidence of bars or wire security closure. If she was careful how she answered questions, she might get out of here and move on with her objective. She did not intend to continue her existence without him. A nurse who possessed entirely too much happiness briskly walked into the room, humming cheerfully. Noticing opened eyes, she smiled and chirped, "Good Afternoon!" Standing by the bed the nurse's bright words seemed to turn to very real chirps as she turned the words she did not wish to hear to nothingness. 

The day she walked out of the hospital the sun was shining and the sky was a clear robin's egg blue. The day sounded happy and people were smiling. After three strangers nodded and smiled, she got out sun glasses and looked at the ground as she walked. She returned to her apartment because she had no where else to go. 

It smelled old, and had a dead look to it. It was clean, things were where they belonged, but it looked like an untouched museum exhibit. An exhibit of the life she lived before, and one she could not go back to because he was no longer there. She walked into the bedroom and sat staring at the room, rubbing her hand across the pillow, his pillow, stirred his scent, and she buried her face in the pillow allowing the light and the present to be removed from her consciousness. She fell asleep and slept until the next morning. 

She awakened from her troubled sleep with the first gray light before dawn. Walking to the window, she looked out and thought of all the mornings the two of them had greeted the dawn with love and sharing of words and thoughts. 

She looked forward to the seemingly endless progression of days before her, alone, without him.  She thought of his words again towards the end. " I will not leave thee."  Behind her she heard a faint sound as if the sheets on the bed were moved. Turning around, she saw nothing. Turning back to the window, the noise came again. Closing her eyes, she let her mind be as blank and receptive as her grief would allow. 

Then, as softly as a bit of down lands on a newly cleaned surface, she felt his presence and the gentle ethereal touch of unseen hands. 

Almost fainting, she thought to herself, ''If this be madness, then let it be so." 

She walked out of the room, knowing in her heart that while he could never be with her in the flesh again, he would forever be with her in heart, soul and spirit, and that reunion with him was not only possible, it was certain. 

She spent her time in the house as much as she could because it was the only place that held things that were his. A candle he had blown out seemed to hold his breath, a shirt on the back of that chair waiting there because he would wear it again. Sometimes she could make herself believe that he would walk back into the house with the "Hey, sweetie" he had started calling her. It made her smile because it had started as a joke. He had told her they would grow old and he'd lose his memory and call her sweetie because he couldn't remember her name. She held the shirt to her face as hot tears escaped from her eyelids. The smell of him filled her with such longing. Again, she could feel his touch, whisper light, but his touch still. 

Walking into the living room she noticed a book on the desk that she did not remember putting there. Reaching for it, she recognized it as one that he had really enjoyed reading, Born Fighting, she noticed a piece of yellow legal paper at the back cover. His favorite paper to write on, she thought as she opened the paper. It was a letter, in his distinctive all caps block printing. The letter began: 

Dear One,  
If you are reading this I did not survive and I know you are alone and have been that way for some time. You said one time that you could not go on without me. You cannot live your life in the past. You cannot do away with yourself. I am telling you that you are to go out and find someone else, go ahead and miss me for you always will. Don't close yourself away from the world and become someone else. You were joy to me and you gave me reason to celebrate each day. I cannot bear to think of you withdrawn and aching in our house all by yourself. Don't come visit my grave if you plan to kill yourself, I cannot bear the grief of you doing that. I am all right, you need not worry. The pain vanished and I am happy. We will meet again.  
I love you. 

The air in the house was still, nothing was moving, she was holding her breath. She felt the warmth of an invisible embrace and she could swear that she heard "goodbye." The paper began to tremble in her hand, and she knew that he was really gone and she was alone.

Ever present beauty

by Marc Prudhon

Each falling leaf, a glorious work of nature's art 
That few pay tribute to, or just take to heart. 
The Goddess paints the world; meadow, hill, and tree. 
'Tis there for any and all, merely stop, look, and see. 
The beauty is there every day, all around it lies, 
All one needs to do, is simply open up your eyes. 
We each walk through this life, most of us are blind, 
Never looking around us, or at what we leave behind. 
Guilty am I also, rarely do I give just duty
To the world around me, its ever present beauty.

read aloud, by the lovely Kate Henderson

Thoughts on the wind

a quote from Marla Spellenberg

ethereal art by Lauri Blank
The Wind. 

You can taste her moody changes, feel her caress or lashing vehemence, watch her carry houses on tornadic spirals, see leaves gently sway in light breeze, feel the humidity she carries from the ocean, dazzle you with delight with white snow swirling in mini snow devils. 
You can't see her, but the wind is ever-present!

A Woman's Faith

by Marc Prudhon

The art by Christopher Vacher that inspired this poem
The Mountains and Sea can become as one
But the travelers journey is not yet done
His soul sails on , he trusts his heart, tis his fate
To sail and hope to reach the one, his mate
She waits, watches, and prays that tiny sail
Will hold together through wind, wave and travail
She stands with faith that cannot bend
For She knows each journey has an end
The wind, the waves, conspire to make her fall.
Heaven knows a Woman's love can save us all.