Who Stole the Tarts?

I know who stole the tarts
because I saw her – jam-smeared
mouth, red as a raspberry,
and fingers all sticky –
I saw her slipping out
into the garden, crumbs
trailing her.

I know who stole the tarts
because I met her
by the sundial,
where the roses
sun themselves,
all red and white,
and she smelt of sugar

and she was smiling.

The lost wings

This is a story my granny told me. She heard it from Maggie Molloy, who lived down by the pier, and where she heard it from I don’t know.

Many years ago, there was a master glass blower, who had been away to study his trade, and now was coming back to see his old mother, and set up a workshop here on the island. He’d travelled far and wide, and it was time to settle down. The ferry brought him late one evening. The moon was full, and the night was bright, and he decided to walk round by the shore for old time’s sake. He passed a group of young folk, splashing and swimming in the water, and they called to him to join them, but he laughed and shook his head and walked on. A little further on, he came upon a little heap of things he took for glass. He picked one up and looked at it closely. He’d never seen anything finer, and the craftsman in him was delighted with it. They didn’t seem to belong to anyone: tiny wings made of fragile glass that shimmered in the moonlight. He couldn’t resist one particularly pretty pair, and put them carefully in his pocket book, and walked on to his mother’s house.

Next day, after breakfast, he strolled back down to the shore, but there were no shimmering glass wings there now, just a beautiful girl, shivering and crying. The craftsman in him was delighted with her, she was so finely made, but the man in him felt pity for her, and took her back to his mother’s house, where she was warmed, and dressed, and fed on bread and honey in front of the fire. She couldn’t say who she was, or where she was from, but she was so pretty and dainty that of course he fell in love with her, and it wasn’t long before they were married.

There were two calls on the glass-maker’s heart – his pretty wife, and the tiny glass wings he had found. He spent his days making glasses and jugs and bowls, and his wife packed them carefully in straw to be sent to the mainland. In the evenings, he spent his time blowing the finest glass possible, and making tiny glass wings, just for his own delight, until he had a whole chest full of them in his workshop. At night, he listened to his wife singing, or watched her brushing her long hair, and thought he was the luckiest man alive. His mother grumbled, of course, that between the workshop and the wife she saw so little of him that he might as well never have come back.

Months passed, and then years, and the glass-blower and his wife had 3 pretty sons, and one beautiful daughter and they passed their days and nights happily enough, until one day the daughter went to explore her father’s workshop. She looked at his tools, and the lumps of glass he would make into airy bubbles of light, and eventually looked in the great chest in the corner of the room. Inside were hundreds of tiny glass wings. She couldn’t resist – maybe she had a craftsman’s heart, too – and picked out a pair.

Later that day, the wife found the daughter playing with something, and asked to see it. When she saw the little wings, she started to cry, and then she got the daughter to show her where she’d found them. With tears rolling down her cheeks she sorted through the chest, through the hundreds and hundreds of delicate wings, each finer than the last. Right at the bottom was that first pair, and she clutched them to her, crying all the while.

There was a full moon that night, too, and if you’d watched the house you’d have seen it lost in a whirling cloud of moths, and bees, and wasps, and flying ants. Every kind of flying insect swarmed around it, until those inside couldn’t see out, and those outside couldn’t see in. And in the morning, the wife was gone, as if she’d never been there, leaving nothing but three pretty sons and a beautiful daughter.

 

This is for Jane Dougherty, who asks for a folk tale about wings, inspired by flying termites who lose their wings after their first flight. This is a little long for flash fiction, I guess, but there you go. 

Streaky sky

Fine streaks foretell fine hunting, grandmother says. Beasts, men, berries, it’s all hunting to her. Dark streaks, dark times, with little to eat. Light streaks for feasting. She nods confidently, sitting in the sunlight, stitching.

My father laughs at her. Somewhere, there are fires burning. That’s what stains the sky.

 

I’m missing a bit of flash fiction, so I’ve started this. Way into the 52 prompts, but there you go. 

In the house of the Duchess.

In the house of the Duchess
the Duchess sleeps
in a white room, dreaming
of lambs, whipped cream
and white gardenias,

while Alice flickers
like a flame
down endless
corridors,

where the carpets
are soft white moss
on naked feet,

past the room filled
with spirals of blue smoke

and the one
where music tumbles
heedless, needless,
across the threshold,

past a row of mirrors,
reflecting Alice
like a ticking clock,
and all those
ice white
marble statues,
straining to move,

down endless twisting
stairs, past windows
that look out
on snowy lawns,

past the room
of purple tears,
and the one
where strange plants
coil and creep,

until, finally,
she leaves the scent
of lilies far behind.

Another ride on the mushroom.

My imperfect vegetable patch – haibun for dVerse

Come outside with me now. Through the gap, across the cobbles, round the corner, and there it is. Look at it with a gardener’s eye for a moment – note the weeds – those speedwells, blue as ripped up scraps of sky; dandelion leaves sharp as teeth; grass encroaching, insinuating its green way across the soil. Nothing is quite in a row. The Trail of Tears sends purple tendrils, coaxing the walking onion to join the wigwam. There’s a squash plant running riot, creeping through the patch, popping up between pea plants.Frankly, it’s a mess.

Now look at it again, with me. Stand here, beside me, in the early morning light, when the grass is heavy with dew. Look at that purple – the dark rippling leaves of the cavolo nero, the midnight pods of the Trail of Tears dangling like heavy tears themselves – and the orange – joyous nasturtiums tumbling over the path, courgette and squash flowers flaunting themselves, flirting with the bumble-bees – and all those greens -the green lettuce leaves, lit from within, fat pods of broad beans, lined with velvet, chard, and peas, and turnip tops, a riot of green.

Trail of tears entwine
green heart of the garden,
bright gold early morning

This is for Victoria at dVerse, who asks us to glory in imperfections this week. There aren’t many things as imperfect as my vegetable patch, but I love being out there…

Summer rain – a trimeter for Frank

The rain comes down in rods,
In sheets, in cats and dogs,
We sit and watch the day
Dissolve, get washed away.

Like maidens in a tower
Beseiged by men of power
Dark arrows from the sky
Keep us at home, and dry

And all the dripping leaves
The darkly clouded trees,
The raindrops on the glass,
The mud be-spattered grass

Are things that give rain joy,
She treats them as a toy –
She’d play with us, no doubt,
If we went running out

And jumped and danced in mud
And laughed at the small flood
That tumbles down the lane
And sings a song of rain.

 

Te TUM te TUM te TUM. A trimeter for Frank, who is hosting MTB at dVerse. For my American readers – this is what happens in England in the summer. Ah, well, we make the most of it. In fact, when I went to tag this, “summer rain” was already a tag, so it’s obviously a common theme for me!

Humpty Dumpty – RTMM

In this photograph, Alice
is sitting on the wall,
glossy hair tied back,
clearing her solemn face.

Looking at it now
she can remember being set there,
by two strong hands, gripping
her waist, over her tartan skirt,
swinging her up, effortless.

She can’t remember whose the hands were.
So many jolly uncles, laughing cousins.

Alice is not laughing. She
is contemplating flight.
If she jumped now, would she fall,
a great fall, crashing down,
crumpling like a broken doll?

Or would she soar
upwards, white socks and patent
leather shoes skimming
the tree tops, white blouse
bright for a moment
against the clouds?

For Riding the Magic Mushroom. Humpty Dumpty is the prompty dompty.